Evanston Vet Center Assists Servicemen, Women Upon Return

Corinne Lestch

By Corinne LestchThe Daily Northwestern

Staff members at the Evanston Vet Center, 565 Howard St., weren’t fazed by a recent flood. As war veterans, they’ve seen much worse.

Volunteers work to clean up their water-damaged building when they aren’t helping veterans readjust to civilian life. Services have expanded since the Vietnam War to include psychiatric and mental counseling.

This Saturday marks Veteran’s Day. The day serves as a reminder of past and present servicemen and women. It also is a day to honor those currently returning from Iraq. Evanston has two local centers for veterans – the Evanston Vet Center and the Evanston Clinic, 107 Clyde St., which both work closely with the North Chicago Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 3001 Green Bay Road.

Nancy Gallagher, the Operation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom contact for the VA Medical Center, works with local vet centers, service organizations, Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion and the VA regional office to coordinate veterans’ services.

“The Evanston Vet Center is a mental health facility for veterans returning from conflict or who have been in conflict and still need assistance transitioning,” Gallagher said.

There are 322 Evanston veterans at the Evanston Vet Center registered through the VA Medical Center, with an average of 12 to 16 veterans a month who have come home from the Iraq conflict and become registered veterans, Gallagher said.

“Any combat-related services are free, whether it is medical, mental or dental. They must apply for a disability, and there is no co-pay for two years,” Gallagher said.

The Evanston Vet Center, Evanston Clinic and VA Medical Center are all funded by the federal government.

Doris Carter-SiMonday, a patient services assistant at the Evanston Clinic, said she has noticed an increase in the number of patients who have recently served in Iraq. The clinic primarily provides medical care for about 2,000 veterans registered in Evanston.

But in the past three to four years, the clinic has expanded its services, Carter-Simon said. It now offers a social worker and a psychiatrist who come in a few times each week.

“We don’t find them with a lot of medical problems but, rather, psychological,” Carter-Simon said of the veterans who seek the clinic’s service.