Last year in one of my columns, I briefly discussed holistic medicine and efforts that the Department of Veterans Affairs had been taking to include such treatments in its care of veterans. Since then, the VA has made some additional efforts to include nontraditional treatments.
I recently attended a gathering in California of Heaven & Earth Oasis. Founded by Valerie Heath, the nonprofit outfit provides professional holistic healing treatments to the public. But veterans are treated at no cost whatsoever.
Heath once sold telephone equipment to the military coast to coast. She talked with active-duty soldiers and veterans who worked for the military.
“I heard their stories,” she said. “I realized many of them needed help.”
She had begun learning about various techniques to help individuals with emotional problems, and she became an expert in Reiki and other therapies. Over time she felt that veterans who have difficulty connecting with traditional medicine could benefit from a holistic approach. Five years ago she opened Heaven & Earth Oasis in Los Angeles and decided to help veterans at no cost.
Today, she has a staff of 10 holistic healers and several other volunteers. She relies on nonveterans who pay for her services, along with donations and large public events such as golf tournaments and lunches. And she said that, while the VA has begun to offer more of what her group does, it has a long way to go.
My own brief research into holistic science suggests there are almost as many alternative treatments as there are veterans. Heath offers Reiki, DNA Theta, water therapy, chiropractic therapy, massage, acupuncture and biofeedback, all practiced by certified and licensed professionals.
In Southern Nevada, a spokesman for the VA said the federal agency in North Las Vegas “leads the nation locally in integrated pain management.” He said qualified veterans are often treated with auricular acupuncture, kinesiotherapy, osteomanipulative therapy and a variety of related services.
His comments mirror what Heath said about VA facilities in California. She said the VA has been offering similar treatments for veterans in the Golden State. Her organization fills the void.
“Thanks to our donors, U.S. servicemen and women are receiving, at no charge, the most effective, professional holistic healing methods to help them recover, re-enter society and re-engage in productive work.”
There is no complete tally of the number of veterans in Nevada, but a good estimate comes in between 226,550 and 300,000, most of them in the south. They represent service in peacetime, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Iraq War and several other deployments worldwide. They served not only full-time but also in the Reserves and National Guard.
According to the Army Times, National Guardsmen are a growing element of those who could benefit from holistic treatments. Guardsmen are quickly dropped from active duty once their deployments are over, and they often leave the service with unfinished medical treatments. The quick out-processing means they are dropped in the lap of the VA with less-than-approved appropriate medical disability benefits. That’s where places like Heaven & Earth Oasis come in.
Local veterans who want to inquire about related VA programs can contact several government affiliated agencies via the following website: www.lasvegas.va.gov/Programs_Resources/Pain_Management.asp. Nevada satellite facilities offer treatments in tai chi, guided imagery, deep breathing relaxation, flotation therapy, chair stretching and, in some cases, music lessons as a gateway to healing.
As the VA learns more about the techniques described above, Heath is encouraged that the government and nonprofit organizations like hers will continue to utilize such treatments.
“I’ve worked with military and veterans groups for 20 years and became aware that veterans need the most help to heal physically and emotionally,” she said. “For this reason, I was gripped by a determination to do something for them.”
The VA system, while positive, can be complicated and overwhelming. Veterans often find they need an oasis such as the one Heaven & Earth provides.
Chuck N. Baker is a Purple Heart veteran of the Vietnam War and the host of “That’s America to Me” every Sunday at 7 a.m. on 97.1-FM.