n Saturday and Sunday, April 2 and 3, 10AM-2PM on both days, VA New York Harbor will be hosting a Welcome Home event for returning combat Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Manhattan Campus.
The event highlights very practical services, encouraging Veterans who enroll to make medical appointments. In addition, since the event is conveniently scheduled in the weeks before the tax filing deadline, the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service will be there to assist Veterans as well.
VA will also be providing details and introducing enrollees to the healthcare benefits to which they are entitled, familiarizing women Veterans with services provided at the women’s clinics at VA’s Manhattan and Brooklyn Campuses, and providing guidance on topics such as maximizing the use of the GI Bill, resume writing, applying for government jobs, ongoing services, job placement assistance and a briefing on 1010 EZ completion.
The Welcome Home event will be held alongside an IRR Army Muster during which reservists receive an annual physical and are invited to familiarize themselves with VA services and other Veteran benefits.
“When I got out, I thought I was only entitled to benefits that were service connected,” says Suzanne Conning, an OEF Army Veteran who is now VA New York Harbor Healthcare System’s Coordinator of the DOD/TRICARE Program. Conning is also Combat Veteran Benefits Coordinator for the Brooklyn Campus. “The details of what benefits each Veteran has access to are best explained in person and this event is a very convenient way to get that information from staff who are well-informed about what Veterans are likely to want and need to know about specific health concerns,” she says.
“I’ve been there and so I share something important with returning Veterans,” says Conning, recalling the heat and pervasive, fine dust of Afghanistan and fierce longing for a cold drink or even an ice cube. A political science major, Conning received a BA from the University of Virginia. Having completed ROTC, she joined the military as a Second Lieutenant to serve her country and to see the world.
During her first assignment in South Korea, Conning served as the Chemical Officer for 1-2 Aviation at Camp Page and as the Second Infantry Division Chemical Logistics Officer at Camp Red Cloud. She then transferred to the Signal Corps and was assigned to the 86th Signal Battalion at Fort Huachuca, AZ. She was deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 where she served as the Communications Project Officer for Bagram Airbase. She coordinated with military units from five allied nations to install semi-permanent communications throughout the airbase. She was promoted to Captain in 2002 after her return from Afghanistan.
Conning separated from the Army in 2003 and remained in Arizona. She worked on Fort Huachuca as a civilian instructor for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilots. A New York native, she returned to the city and settled in Brooklyn in 2006. Now in her fifth year at VA, she is pursuing a PhD at night in experimental psychology.