Since 2010, HealthCare Alliance Panama has successfully sponsored the Annual Veterans Convention in Panama City. Guest speakers from VA, veterans organizations, and military VIPs have been invited to present their expertise on special subject matters. LTG Joe Kinzer, LTG Michael Rochelle, MG Valenzuela, LTG Ricardo Sanchez, Mr. JM Hedge, and CSM Rogelio Davidson have been guest speakers. These meetings take place in exclusive hotels in Panama City. Veterans get to meet other veterans and their families. One such meeting was also sponsored in the Province of Chiriqui, border with Costa Rica, with resounding success. Attendance was exceptional and overwhelming.
Esteban Blis, the Panama Veterans Commission's dedicated Public Affairs Officer and a retired/disabled veteran of the US Army, exhibited unwavering commitment as he tirelessly worked day and night to extend assistance to four homeless or abused veterans in the regions of Panama City, Chiriqui, and Colon. Utilizing witness accounts, he successfully tracked down these veterans who were in dire need. With their transition from the streets, Esteban took charge of meticulously completing all required paperwork and forms, ensuring they could rightfully access their hard-earned compensation, pensions, and Social Security payments. Remarkably, Esteban's efforts even facilitated the relocation of one abused veteran to a VA home in Florida, highlighting his exceptional dedication and impact.
2015 - A communication link was successfully established between the Veterans Service Officers, MEDCOM Commander and TRICARE Director. The purpose of this connection is to effectively relay the challenges and obstacles that veterans and their families in Panama encounter in relation to their TRICARE medical insurance. This initiative is ongoing, demonstrating a dedicated effort to address and resolve these pressing issues.
2016 - the Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) did the first ever census of retirees, veterans, widows, widowers and dependent family members residing in the Republic of Panama. The census is an ongoing project. So far, 4,000+ Veterans, Retirees, and family members have been accounted for.
2016 - contact was successfully established with the chief of the Regional Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) at the US Embassy in Costa Rica regarding the vital assistance needed by veterans and families in Panama. A comprehensive briefing was delivered to the Costa Rica FBU, highlighting the accomplishments and impactful outcomes achieved through the Veterans Service Officer's dedicated support to veterans and their families in Panama. The US Embassy in Costa Rica continues to demonstrate unwavering commitment by providing expert and steadfast aid, offering continuous guidance and professional support in matters pertaining to Social Security benefits for veterans, their families, as well as their survivors.
November 2018 - the US Embassy reached out to Mr. Butcher, VSO Operations Officer, regarding an urgent case involving an 87-year-old bedridden Army veteran residing in the Province of Chiriqui, Panama. The veteran sought to be transferred to a VA hospital in California. Responding swiftly, Mr. Butcher promptly contacted his VSO colleague, Mr. JR Pazo, situated in the Province of Chiriqui. Providing him with comprehensive details of the veteran's situation, he instructed immediate intervention. With the invaluable assistance of local police detectives, JR Pazo embarked on a determined effort to locate the veteran's residence. Through diligent investigation, he pinpointed the veteran's dwelling. Remarkably, the veteran's landlord, residing nearby, was already informed about the veteran's plea for assistance. Cooperation was extended, granting access to the veteran's residence in the company of the police detectives. Tragically, the veteran was discovered living in unsanitary conditions. Having made the vital discovery, JR Pazo communicated the update to both Mr. Butcher and the US Embassy. Swiftly progressing, JR Pazo reached out to the veteran's attorney in the US, who facilitated the purchase of a plane ticket for the veteran's transfer. Subsequently, he coordinated with the veteran's maid, ensuring the veteran received proper care and grooming, and his living quarters were sanitized. The subsequent day saw the veteran receiving another thorough grooming, dressing, and packing for the impending journey. With all preparations in place, JR Pazo transported the veteran to the local airport, initiating his journey. Upon arriving in Panama City, a representative from the US Embassy was present to guide him to his departure gate for the flight to the US. In a heartening turn of events, the veteran has since found refuge in a VA nursing home and assisted living facility in California. This remarkable collaborative effort, spearheaded by Mr. Butcher and executed with diligence by JR Pazo, has transformed the veteran's life, offering him the care and support he bravely earned through his service.
December 2018 - a 67-year-old Army veteran embarked on a journey from Peru, bound for a VA hospital in the US, where he was seeking cancer treatment. Tragically, during his transit through Panama, he encountered severe health complications at the Tocumen International Airport, leading to his passing. The US Embassy in Panama swiftly engaged Mr. Butcher, VSO Operations Officer, and Mr. Blis, VSO Liaison and PAO, to address the situation. These dedicated VSOs promptly initiated the emergency assistance plan and protocols in place. With profound empathy, the VSOs undertook all essential steps, including notifying the bereaved family, completing requisite legal documentation, and ensuring the appropriate VA Forms were meticulously filled out. Compassionately obtaining the family's consent, they facilitated the respectful cremation of the veteran within Panama's borders. Notably, the entirety of the expenses associated with mortuary services, transportation, and cremation were graciously covered by HealthCare Alliance in Panama. An emotional memorial service took place at the Cristo Rey Church in Panama City, where the presence of the veteran's ashes, accompanied by his solemnly folded US flag, became a poignant tribute to his life and service. In accordance with the wishes and authorization received from his family in the United States, a secluded beach was chosen as the site for scattering the veteran's ashes. This act was performed following a dignified military ceremony orchestrated by the VSOs and fellow veterans. This sentimental sequence of events underscores the unwavering commitment of the VSOs and the heartfelt collaboration that brought solace to a grieving family while honoring the memory of a valiant veteran who selflessly served his country.
February 2019 - a significant milestone was achieved with the inauguration of the Veterans Service Office in the City of Sabaneta, Antioquia, Colombia. This dedicated facility, located at Torres Bombay on Carrera 43C, Calle 68 Sur 21, marked the successful culmination of a visionary project and a dedicated effort that had been set into motion back in 2018.
April 2019 - a group of four dedicated veteran volunteers from Panama were chosen to participate in a rigorous Veterans Service Officer training program at the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) in Houston, TX. This comprehensive training was conducted by expert instructors hailing from the Texas Veterans Commission, ensuring a high standard of education and professional skill development for the participants.
In May 2019, a dedicated group of veteran volunteers in the Republic of Panama came together to establish the Panama Veterans Commission. This exceptional and esteemed volunteer organization has swiftly become a beacon of support, making a lasting impact on veterans, their families, and survivors by significantly enhancing their overall quality of life. Notably, these Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) have been diligently providing essential assistance to veterans since 1999.
September 25, 2020 - a significant act of compassion took place as the HealthCare Alliance and the Panama Veterans Commission joined forces to generously donate a critically needed wheelchair to a remarkable five-year-old named Carlos Berrio. Facing the challenges of Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, Carlos has already shown incredible resilience by undergoing four corrective surgeries on his right hip and leg, with another surgery for his right foot still ahead. Let us extend our heartfelt wishes for a swift and successful recovery from his upcoming surgery.
- July 2020 - a significant event unfolded when Mr. Humberto Butcher, the Operations Officer of the Panama Veterans Commission, received a crucial communication from Mr. Abdiel Gutierrez residing in the United States. The message conveyed that Mr. Gutierrez's entire family in the Province of Colon, Republic of Panama, had fallen victim to the pervasive grasp of COVID-19. Without a moment's hesitation, Mr. Butcher promptly established contact with HealthCare Alliance. His purpose was to swiftly orchestrate the acquisition and transportation of a comprehensive COVID-19 medication package, which was already being thoughtfully donated by HealthCare Alliance to many veterans and their affected families. Demonstrating their remarkable commitment, HealthCare Alliance generously extended the medication package to Mr. Gutierrez's family, serving as an emblem of their altruism. Enclosed herein is the letter, presented both in its original Spanish form and translated into English, penned by Mr. Gutierrez, addressed to Mr. Butcher and the Healthcare Alliance representatives:
- December 2020 - HealthCare Alliance generously donated a number of laptops to several students in Panama. These laptops were intended to support the students' engagement with the newly implemented "virtual classes," which were adopted by the Panama Ministry of Education as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent closure of schools since March 2020. The provision of these laptops is expected to significantly enrich the students' educational journey and streamline their learning process. The presentation of the laptops was carried out by VSOs of the Panama Veterans Commission, underscoring the collaborative efforts to empower the younger generation's education.
Veterans Service Officers (VSOs) play a pivotal role in providing unwavering support to fellow veterans, their families and survivors both in Panama and across the expansive regions of Central and South America. Their commitment knows no bounds, as evidenced by their dedicated visits to nations such as the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras, Ecuador and Costa Rica. Functioning as a united front of veterans assisting veterans, VSOs exemplify the true spirit of camaraderie and shared experience. Side by side, they offer an inclusive invitation to all veterans seeking to join this remarkable and noble endeavor.