TEMPLE — The VA has training programs for local clergy to assist veterans in their communities.

“We want to reach out to anyone who will help us connect veterans to the local VA,” said Jeffrey Weir, chaplain for the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System. “We want to connect with not only clergy, but with helping organizations who serve veterans.”

Weir was the guest speaker at the Care Leadership Team’s April meeting. The Care Leadership Team is made up of people representing local agencies and organizations, communities, churches, schools, volunteers and hospitals who network to share community concerns, information and to connect resources.

“If you run into veterans who have needs we have resources for them,” Weir said. “One issue is that not everyone who says they’re veteran is a veteran. Don’t worry about that, we’ll sort that out.”

Central Texas Veterans Health Care System includes the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center, Waco VA and six outpatient clinics, including a large Austin clinic.

“We have 39 counties in Texas that we cover and most are rural,” he said. “You could drive in any direction from here and within a few minutes you’d be out in the country.”

Weir talked about training available to clergy.

In small communities many times the person in distress will reach out to a church leader, he said.

The VA training modules are:

On Military Culture and The Wounds of War. This provides an overview of military culture with an emphasis on its conflict with civilian culture.

This involves a discussion of the fundamentals of pastoral care with attention given to spirituality in relation to the development of meaning and purpose in life.

This is designed to provide community clergy with an overview of mental health services available in rural communities.

Building Community Partnerships. Local communities are often the most important and most neglected resources for reintegration of returning service members.

“We want to make people aware of what’s going on with veterans,” Weir said.

There are physical wounds as well as other wounds — sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder, he said.

The wounds impact families and the community, Weir said. A veteran who can’t work may have to get help from community resources.

About 20 veterans a day commit suicide and most of those victims never come to the VA for help, he said.

The Central Texas Veterans Health Care System serves about 100,000 veterans and had more than a million outpatient visits last year. “That’s not all of the veterans in our service area, that’s the number of veterans served by the VA,” Weir said.

For more information, call Weir at 254-743-0991.

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