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Local Veterans host healthcare fair

A Veterans Health Fair took place on Wednesday at the Veterans Building in Oxford.

The event, which was presented by Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion, featured 25 vendors from across the region. According to Larry Malatesta, who works with Humana, the event is a way to encourage community engagement and make sure veterans are getting the best care.

“This is what we like to do, reach out to the veterans and seniors in the area and try to educate them on what’s available for healthcare,” Malatesta said. “We have health plans for people on medicare and veterans, and we’re trying to reach out to them.”

Those who attended the fair were able to get health screenings and learn about various groups, including Memory Makers, the Mississippi State Veterans Home – Oxford, Oxford Health and Rehab and home health providers.

The Vet Center in Memphis sent a delegation as well, with a mobile counseling center available for veterans to assess the resources they currently use and find others that are available for them. Fred Smith, who works with the center, said one of the biggest ways he helps veterans is transitioning back into civilian society.

“In the van, we talk about readjustment counseling to help with PTSD, anxiety, depression and sleep disturbances,” Smith said. “We help the veterans transition from military life back to civilian life. I’m like the liaison, the guy who can refer veterans to the right people who can help them.”

Out more than 200 people who attended the health fair, approximately 50 spoke with counselors from the Vet Center. Smith said he encourages veterans who need these services, but weren’t able to attend Wednesday’s event, to call the Vet Center at 901-522-3950.

According to VFW Commander Greg Lovelady, the health fair addressed an issue that directly affects veterans, especially those who served in the Vietnam War. Every day, there are veterans who experience issues with their mental and physical health, and many think they’re alone in terms of benefits, he said. However, Lovelady speaks from personal experience when he says that’s not the case.

“Seven years ago, I had prostate cancer. I got it taken care of, but a year after that, somebody said, ‘Well, you know that’s covered by the VA.’ And I had no idea,” Lovelady said. “They sent me to a rep for the American Legion, who said it’s covered under Agent Orange. I’ve got benefits that I didn’t even know were there. I know there are tons of veterans out there who, like myself, didn’t know what benefits are available.”

Approximately 1,200 veterans live in Lafayette County, Lovelady said. However, the VFW only has 250 to 300 in their database. Getting involved in an organization like the VFW, DAV or the American Legion isn’t just for older veterans, he said, and it’s not just for learning about benefits. It’s also a place where veterans of all ages can interact with people who share their experiences.

The Oxford Veterans Building is located at 155 Veterans Drive, Oxford MS 38655.