Building a strong volunteer presence in VA health care facilities

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The role of a volunteer inside a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facility is just as important as the role of every doctor or nurse in the building.

It’s a bold claim, but I stand by it and research studies support it.

Volunteers balance the clinical nature of medical care with friendliness, compassion and warmth. Anxiety levels in patients come down and quality of life goes up as volunteers provide a touch of home, a feeling of belonging and a bond with the outside world. Getting well matters more when a patient has the desire to live a healthy, fulfilling life, and volunteers are the ones who often instill that desire.

The VA recognizes this and invests significant resources to offer and facilitate the VA Voluntary Services (VAVS) program, giving those who want to volunteer a way to be a part of a patient’s care team.

DAV has had a long relationship with the volunteer program going back nearly 80 years. We’ve served millions of hours inside VA health care facilities in support of patients and are working to contribute millions of hours more. The participation of DAV volunteers is a major part of our effort to keep promises to veterans.

But we can do this only if we know what the VA’s needs are and have volunteers ready to help. That’s where our DAV representatives and deputies come in. Those members who fill these positions drive DAV success in medical facilities at the local level.

They are liaisons between a VA health care facility and nearby DAV chapters. They attend quarterly advisory committee meetings to understand the needs of their assigned facility. They communicate those needs back to their chapters and encourage and recruit volunteers to help.

An active, motivated DAV representative or deputy can be the difference between a facility having a vibrant volunteer program or one that’s barely hanging on. Those selected to fill these positions should understand the responsibility they have and be willing to carry out their work with excellence and dedication. They can be the first impression of DAV with a VA medical facility’s staff, and those relationships can drive our level of access at that facility.

There’s a place for everyone within DAV to volunteer. Each of us has a gift or skill that can benefit the lives of veterans and their families. Our representatives are the ones who can recognize those volunteers who are well-suited to work in VA medical facilities.

If you are a state voluntary services representative or a department commander making an appointment recommendation for a local representative, please make sure you nominate someone who will embrace the position and grow the program within their area. If you are someone nominated for the position, I ask that you read through our handbook about the position to understand what’s being asked of you.

Along with DAV’s state and national representatives, the entire national voluntary services department team is available to help in any way we can to make sure local representatives and deputies can run successful programs in their area. Email us at [email protected] if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you to each one of you who volunteers your time in DAV’s name. I know how precious of a resource time is, and for you to spend some of it impacting the lives of veterans means so much to them and us.

If you are someone looking to volunteer with DAV or are a veteran needing help, visit volunteerforvets.org.

If you are a student volunteer looking for a scholarship opportunity, we give away $110,000 a year. Visit davscholarships.org to learn more and to apply.

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