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Q: I do not receive the annual influenza shot offered by the VA each fall. There is so much confusing information about effectiveness of the vaccination and the potential for side effects of the shot itself. People I know have told me that after getting the shot, they got the flu! What is the VA position on influenza vaccinations? Are they worth the risk?

A: A study of more than 450,000 adults, published in the March 27 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, strongly indicates that adults need annual immunizations to minimize influenza. Additionally, the vaccine also helps to avoid complications that lead to hospitalization especially in older people and those with compromised immune systems.

This largest study of its kind strongly confirms the long-held notion of a connection between influenza, also known as flu, and heart failure. The study supports the VA’s aggressive effort every year to provide veterans with influenza vaccine. Flu season is winding down, but it is not too late for veterans, and others, to get a vaccine.

Q: I recently heard the term “protected veteran.” I served in the military near the end of the Vietnam War and found when I returned home that I was often shunned by employers because of the anti-military atmosphere at the time. What the heck is a “protected veteran” and what does being one mean?

A: The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended by the Jobs for Veterans Act of 2002, is an ‘equal opportunity’ clause that requires government contractors to take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment “protected veterans.” They are defined by the government as follows: A disabled veteran is a veteran of the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service entitled to compensation (or who but for receipt of military retired pay would be entitled to compensation) under laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs; or a person discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability.

The law primarily applies to separated veterans within a three-year period beginning on the date of such veteran’s discharge or release from active duty. While the original law applied to Vietnam-era veterans, the amendment in 2002 extended the “protected veterans” status to all veterans that meet the above criteria.

Concerning your dates of service, unless you have a service-connected disability, you are probably not considered “protected.” Veterans with service-connected disability do not lose their “protected status.”

DID YOU KNOW?

Over 3,240 Illinois veterans have signed up for the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry since 2014. Nationally, over 169,000 veterans and service members have submitted the registry questionnaire during the same time frame. Eligible veterans and service members include those who served in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn in Djibouti, Africa, on or after Sept. 11, 2001; Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm and Southwest Asia Theater of operations on or after Aug. 2, 1990. Check your eligibility and sign up by visiting publichealth.va.gov/exposure/burnpits/registry.asp.

REMINDER

Don’t forget the May 18 Veterans Health & Services Expo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Illinois State University Alumni Center, 1101 N. Main St., Normal.

This expo promotes the new Bloomington-based VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic which will open this fall on Hamilton Road. The expo will have VA experts on-site to provide eligibility and enrollment in the Bloomington CBOC.

Updates and health screenings, caregiver support information, suicide prevention efforts, care in the community, whole health, MyHealth eVet and multiple veteran resources will be available. Visit https://www.facebook.com/VADanville for a full list.

EVENT

The Center for Independent Living (LIFE CIL) will host a free low vision fair on May 2 at Westminster Village, 2025 E. Lincoln Ave., Bloomington. The fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This fair is designed to introduce people with low vision or blindness to different types of assistive devices. Vendors will be on-site. Low vision service may be available if you are 55 or older with macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, or diabetic eye disease. A light lunch is available for those that RSVP to kim@lifecil.org or call 309-663-5433.

Vogler is superintendent of the McLean County Veterans Assistance Commission.