VA NY Harbor Healthcare System
Compassion In Person and OnlineCompassion In Person and Online
Ric Pinard, a licensed clinical social worker who has specialized in mental health issues at VA’s Manhattan campus since 2004, has recently taken the helm as the new OIF/OEF/OND Program Coordinator. He has succeeded Robert Greene. Given Pinard’s background in mental health and his earlier experience working in a chaplaincy role with the Franciscan Friars, Pinard’s focus will have a compassionate, clinical, therapeutic tone.
Transitioning into this job during the period of Hurricane Sandy recovery, Pinard has taken up the challenge of issues that come with the temporary reassignment of Manhattan’s OEF/OIF/OND services to Brooklyn. OEF/OIF/OND staff member Curtis Johnson, also a Veteran, described the situation for returning Veterans who had been coming to Manhattan: “They’re dealing with readjustment and now traveling here is also an adjustment. But, they’ve been very good in dealing with this.”
Educating Veterans about the potential health issues that may arise from their combat experiences is a key focus for Pinard. With something like Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), they need to know about the problems that may affect them over their lives. There’s some evidence that Veterans may experience memory loss and early dementia, for example, and it’s important for them to document the combat injury since it may cause symptoms to appear in the future. “That way they have a paper trail and will be able to document history if they need to apply for benefits in the future,” he said.
Pinard said he will also be working on a number of approaches to connect with returning Veterans. The potential of online communication to offer support and guidance and information about using VA services in ways that do not require time away from work and family to attend support workshops and guidance therapy is very promising.
Eight years ago - in coming to a decision about his career path - Pinard was greatly influenced by Father Andrew Sioleti, Chief of Chaplaincy, also a social worker, who advised him to become a social worker. Now, in a key position, leading a team that welcomes returning Veterans home and encourages them to bring their issues to VA, Pinard says, “We are committed, we’re here and can help.”