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Something was not the same, and we recognize that having done a combat tour their was going to be some changes.
Cheri Caiella

Taking Care Of Veterans

As the VA adapts to greater demands, their not alone in the fight to take care of Veterans. Meet Cheri Caiella, a mother of a combat Veteran.

When her son came home from a six-month deployment from Iraq, Cheri Caiella and her family noticed something wasn't right.

“Something was not the same, and we recognize that having done a combat tour [in Iraq] had caused him to change,” said Caiella.

At that time Caiella was looking forward to returning to nursing school, however her son needed her help to get mental health treatment. Her dream of going to nursing school was put on hold. She began taking him to appointments and helping him get the VA benefits he rated.

“It was so difficult taking my son to the VA,” said Caiella. “You’re there all day. You get results of tests and they’re not good. It’s exhausting.” The experience with her son made Caiella realized while the VA offers support to veterans, it didn't offer advocacy support to the veteran family members.

Caiella started an advocacy group called Shadow Warrior, a support group for veterans and their families. The group meets monthly at Café 407 in Liverpool, N.Y., and is currently in the process of being officially recognized as a non-profit organization.

Caiella is optimistic the group will begin receiving donations and funding in the future, but that doesn't stop her from continuing to support the families. Through her work, she has found a passion for helping families. “[With our program], they have some place to go,” said Caiella. “They have someone to listen too, someone who gets what they’re dealing with.”

The Future of Veterans Affairs

The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has put 700,000 more veterans into the Veterans Affairs’ health care system. Of that amount, 139,000 receive mental health treatment compared to the 34,000 in 2006.

In his State of the Union address, President Barrack Obama announced an increase in funds to VA programs.

The Veterans Affairs facility in Syracuse, N.Y. alone has 25 construction projects costing over $125 million that include more programs for families and a mental care treatment facility on the eight floor building expansion.

“It’s changing!,” said Ann Canastra, a VA counselor that helps veterans and families with mental illnesses. “The VA is changing in such a good way; that we are opening our doors. We are a place that welcomes families now.”