Honoring VA workers

HARLINGEN — For about five years, Yasisca Pujols has worked in courthouses, where she helps veterans receive counseling and psychiatric services.

Yesterday, she and three of her co-workers were recognized for their years of service at a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Clinic here.

“It’s always nice to be recognized for what often goes unnoticed, working in jails and courthouses,” Pujols, a forensic psychologist, said as she clutched her plaque commemorating her service. “It’s getting the word out that this program is active and thriving.”

Social workers Cynthia Gonzalez, Alondra Muñiz and Maribel Barcenas were also recognized in the ceremony held by the VA’s Valley-Coastal Bend Health Care System and the Cameron County Veterans Affairs Department.

In the small ceremony in the building’s lobby, County Judge Eddie Treviño said the employees exemplify the VA’s dedication to helping veterans who have given much of their lives to protect America’s freedom.

“We give thanks every day to the veterans who serve our great country and it’s important that those who serve our veterans get recognition,” Treviño said after his speech. “It’s important that those individuals who dedicate their lives be given thanks and shown recognition.”

The award-winning employees are helping the clinic “turn the corner” as it continues to work to address veterans’ needs, cutting down on their complaints, Salvador Castillo, the county’s director of veterans affairs, said after the ceremony.

“The key element is employees,” Castillo said. “There have been a lot of changes, decreases in complaints, issues. We are on the path to be the best clinic in the nation. That’s the overall goal.”