One Reader's View Veterans should be aware of hospice services

Posted: November 28, 2006

November is full of important occasions - Veterans Day, Election Day, Thanksgiving. It is also National Hospice Month, when hospices across the nation are encouraged to take on initiatives to build awareness of and increase access to quality end-of-life care.

Samaritan Hospice is pleased to announce a hospice awareness program for veterans in South Jersey intended to make sure veterans who need hospice services know about the programs they and their families are entitled to.

Every veteran who has served our country should be able to access hospice and other services to make the end of his or her life as comfortable as possible.

We are working with state, county and regional veterans-services personnel to provide staff education on hospice services. Veterans Administration representatives are training our staff on veterans' benefits, and how they can be integrated with Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.

The life-changing experiences our veterans encounter in the service of our country can have a profound impact on their physical, emotional and spiritual needs, making the diagnosis of a chronic illness particularly difficult for them to cope with.

Hospice and palliative care are part of the basic benefits package for enrolled veterans in all settings.

However, contrary to common perception, 85 percent of veterans do not take advantage of their federal Veterans Affairs benefits and are cared for in the public sector. Of veterans who are VA-enrolled, 96 percent will pass away in the community rather than in VA facilities.

There are more than 167,000 veterans throughout Samaritan Hospice's service area of Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer Counties.

Through our network of friends and referrals, we know many are in need of assistance, and we want to help spread the word about the benefits to which veterans are entitled through the VA, Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurers.

As baby boomers age, the number of veteran deaths in the United States this year is expected to reach 687,500 (1 out of 4 American deaths), including almost 20,000 in New Jersey.

Those needing end-of-life care should know that support is available from the hospice community.

At Samaritan, we have set up a phone line - 1-888-384-4VET - for South Jersey veterans looking for support.

We have also dedicated a Web page to veterans' issues - www.samaritancares4vets.org. It includes links to state and national hospice organizations.

We encourage veterans and their caregivers to reach out to Samaritan or another hospice serving their community.

Mary Ann Boccolini

President and CEO

Samaritan Hospice

Marlton

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