Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
In the military, you learn how to accomplish missions as a team, says Carlos Santana, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and is part of the planning team for The Hawai‘i Veterans Summit.
“There [are] a lot of challenges out there [for veterans],” states Santana. “It’s important for veterans to know that they are part of a team and the summit is built around the same concept.”
Attendees will hear up-to-date information from the Department of Veterans Affairs without having to make an appointment, and experts will share their knowledge about PTSD and other mental health issues. Managing pain, and other topics important to veterans and their families, will also be discussed.
“The summit is designed to provide answers to whatever questions veterans have especially if they’re not sure where to get the answers or if they are having trouble getting information,” Santana said.
The first summit was held in person in 2019. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the summit is online. The virtual format means the webinars can be spread out over about a month instead of being packed into one day and it will be easier for neighbor-island veterans to attend.
As part of AARP Hawai‘i’s outreach to veterans, it is partnering with the state’s Office of Veterans Services and the Hawai‘i Veterans Foundation to plan the summit. In a state like Hawai‘i, where there is a long tradition of military service, a significant number of küpuna are veterans or have family who are veterans. AARP Hawai‘i has also supported a number of events including welcome home ceremonies for Vietnam veterans on the neighbor islands and the awarding of Congressional Gold Medals to American World War II veterans of Filipino and Chinese descent.
Santana is involved in planning the summit because he wants to share what he’s learned about accessing his benefits after suffering hearing loss and hip, knee and other injuries during his service in Iraq.
“It (navigating the Veterans Administration) is difficult, but it’s not impossible if you have assistance,” assures Santana.
Santana and state Office of Veteran Services’ director, retired Col.Ron Han, will host the first virtual workshop on Tuesday, June 22, about recent state and federal legislation affecting veterans. Santana said bills before Congress may expand benefits for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange and Iraq veterans affected by burn pits. Other legislation could help families of Filipino World War II veterans. Participants will also learn how to effectively organize to advocate for veterans issues.
AARP Hawai‘i has also planned a Friday, June 18, 2 p.m., session as part of a series of Fraud Watch Friday webinars that will look at scams targeting veterans.
To register to get a Zoom link for the summit go to aarp.cvent.com/HIVets2021 to sign up for any of the webinars being held through July. Another option is to go to aarp.org/nearyou or the AARP Hawai‘i Facebook page and click on Upcoming Events to see all of our virtual events (facebook.com/pg/AARPPrograms/event).
Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.