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Posted on Sat, Feb 9, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

Ann Arbor VA Hospital welcoming special guests to celebrate National Salute to Veterans

By Ryan J. Stanton

Country musician Aaron Tippin is expected to bring his guitar when he visits the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor Sunday morning ahead of his sold-out concert at Eastern Michigan University.

Strumming a few tunes for veterans, Tippin will help the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System kick off a week-long series of events to celebrate the National Salute to Veterans Week.

At different times on Monday, special guests visiting the hospital will include U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and the University of Michigan baseball team.

On Wednesday, the U-M track and field team plans to visit. And on Friday, Coach Mike Hart and the Eastern Michigan University football team will visit.


Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will visit patients at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System at 2 p.m. Monday as part of the 35th annual National Salute to Veterans Week.

Ryan J. Stanton | file photo

Miss Michigan 2012 Angela Venditti is expected to stop through Friday afternoon.

"We really try to make it a special week," said Katy Nustad, executive assistant to the director of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

Between its main hospital at 2215 Fuller Road in Ann Arbor and three other community-based outpatient clinics — in Flint, Toledo and Jackson — the system saw nearly 57,000 veteran patients in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Visits totaled 504,542, up 11 percent.

Nustad said the number of veterans coming through the doors grew another 7 percent in the first quarter of this fiscal year, so the growth hasn't stopped.

"We're really doing a lot of outreach, so perhaps that's helping," said Derek Atkinson, public affairs officer for the VA. "We do a lot of events when units get back from deployment. We actually go out to where they're at and get them signed up for benefits."

The National Salute to Veterans celebration happens every year during the week of Valentine's Day and every VA medical center throughout the country participates.

"It's an opportunity to invite folks into our medical centers to spend some time with our veterans and learn a little bit about what we do and the health care we provide," Atkinson said.

"And we also try to promote volunteerism within the VA at the same time," he added. "It's a big week for outreach and just for letting folks know what we do."

Atkinson said the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System has a nearly 1,000 volunteers that perform all kinds of tasks ranging from taking veterans to their appointments to serving on committees.

"We're inviting folks into the facility to come and visit the veterans, but there's also a lot of veterans who don't know about us and don't know we're here for them," Atkinson said, encouraging veterans to call 734-769-7100 to get enrolled in VA health care benefits.

Due to the growing number of veterans coming in for care and rising staffing levels to meet those demands, VA officials said in 2011 they were planning a new parking garage next to the hospital on Fuller Road. The hospital had 2,163 employees at the time, counting full-time and part-time.

"It is still in the works," Nustad said of the parking garage on Friday. "I do know that it is in process. Our veterans need to park on site. We need to make it as easy for them as we can."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 5 p.m.

From someone I know who has worked there says the UM grads go to VA to get started on their medical careers. Then after several years of being there they leave for the UM or other big name hospitals for better paychecks. So, you may be getting great medical care? But I hate to say it, they are only refining their craft until something better comes along.

Lou Perry

Sun, Feb 10, 2013 : 3:46 p.m.

I am a patient at the Ann Arbor VA. Without question, after receiving commercial healthcare all over the country the Ann Arbor VA has given me, without parallel, the best care ever. Many people in Ann Arbor do not know that the physician's at the VA are all University of Michigan doctors; you can't do better than that. I've asked doctors who come over from the U how they like working at the VA. All have said the same thing – The veterans are very appreciative of their care. Nurses, some not retiring after 30-years feel the same way. They also say patient face-to-face time isn't as ridged as it is at the U. If you get a chance to visit the hospital you'll walk in the front door with a player piano playing classical music. There is a stable of golf carts driven by volunteer's ready to help those who need it to services throughout the facility. If you turn right you'll see a Starbucks. Now that young soldiers and sailors come with their small children throughout the facility are child chairs and tables, coloring books and crayons and toys to keep them busy. Ann Arbor, you should be very proud.