All posts by Jeff Cavanagh

About Jeff Cavanagh

Jeff Cavanagh spent his freshman year at St. Petersburg Junior College back in the early 70s before enlisting in the United States Navy. Soon after, he attended Jacksonville University on a Navy ROTC scholarship. After college, he was commissioned and became a qualified Surface Warfare Officer spending the next 22 years honing his skills as a ship-handler and expert recruiter before retiring in 1994. Jeff expresses a deep sense of pride in St. Petersburg College due to connections that go back many years. His father, Tom Cavanagh, was a career Air Force fighter pilot and combat veteran who taught Geography and Western Civilization at St. Petersburg Junior College in the 60’s and 70’s.

Pride of the Buffalo Soldiers

Veterans Town Hall Meeting

The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS), in collaboration with the St. Petersburg VA Regional Office, will host a Veterans town hall meeting on Monday, February 12, 2018 from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. The event will take place in the J.C. Cobb room located on the first floor of the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center (building 100) located at 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., Bay Pines, Fla. 33744. Click here for driving directions and a campus map.

The town hall kicks-off National Salute to Veteran Patients Week. The week provides an opportunity for the community to pay tribute and express appreciation to Veterans, increase community awareness of the role VA plays, and to encourage citizens to visit hospitalized Veterans. In addition, VA Voluntary Service will be in attendance to deliver a special presentation and make resources available for those interested in making a difference locally.

VA outreach services and special program representatives will also be available to assist Veterans starting at 1:00 p.m. and will be available through the duration of the event. Services available will include VA health care enrollment and eligibility; VA benefits and claims assistance; and patient advocate services. Veterans and their loved ones, congressional stakeholders, Veterans Service Organizations and other community partners are invited to attend.

During the town hall, VA leaders from both organizations will provide updates on VA operations and improvement initiatives regarding VA health care and benefits. Veterans and their families will have an opportunity to comment publicly about VA programs and services.

This event is open to the media. For media inquiries or advanced information, please call 727-398-9531, or email For updated information about the Veterans town hall meeting or to learn more about the Bay Pines VAHCS, please subscribe to receive updates via email at, or connect with us on Facebook,, and Twitter,

About the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System The Bay Pines VAHCS is one of the nation’s leading VA healthcare systems, employing more than 4,000 medical professionals and support staff dedicated to providing the very best care to Veterans residing in southwest Florida. The organization is the fifth busiest VA health care system in the country in terms of patients served and is accredited by The Joint Commission, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and several other nationally recognized accrediting organizations. The Bay Pines VAHCS operates nine facilities to include the main medical center located in Bay Pines and outpatient clinics located in Bradenton, Cape Coral, Naples, Palm Harbor, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Sebring. To learn more, please visit, like us on Facebook at, or follow us on Twitter at

Invitation – Bay Pines VAHCS Homeless Summits November 17, 2017 (Northern) and December 5, 2017 (Southern)

Dear Community Partners,

Many of you already received an invitation about our Homeless Summit event scheduled for our northern service area on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. As communicated previously, the event will take place in our building 20 auditorium located at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center from 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Click here to view our campus map and driving directions.  If you have not already RSVP’d for the event, you can do so now by visiting: RSVP deadline for this event is tomorrow, Nov. 9, 2017.

For those of you receiving this information for the first time, please know that we have added a second Homeless Summit for partners in our southern service area. This event will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 at the Dr. Carrie Robinson Center located at 2990 Edison Avenue, Fort Myers, from 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.  To RSVP for our Southern Homeless Summit, please visit: RSVP deadline for this event is Monday, Nov. 27, 2017.

The purpose of the Homeless Summit is to streamline and expand services to homeless Veterans through increased collaboration between the VA and the community. We are proud of the work that has been put forth in providing services to our Nation’s heroes. Every Veteran has a unique story, and every Veteran deserves for their story to be heard in order to have their needs met.

The summit agenda will focus on tools providers can utilize to engage Veterans in meaningful therapeutic interventions and activities. Connecting Veterans to wrap-around services that support housing sustainment will also be discussed. Light refreshments will be provided.

For questions, or to request additional information, please contact Dr. Lisa Harmon at or call 727-398-6661 extension 17552.  A follow-up email acknowledging your reservation will be provided to those who RSVP for the event.

Thank you for your support of the VA’s mission to end Veteran homelessness.


Robert Larson, LCSW Acting Chief, Social Work Service Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

President proclaims November Veterans and Military Families Month

Today, VA Secretary David Shulkin joined President Donald Trump in the Oval Office for the President’s signing of a proclamation establishing November as Veterans and Military Families Month.

This is the first time that America will celebrate Veterans and Military Families for the entire month and not just on Veterans Day.

“Our Veterans and Military Families are an important part of our lives throughout the year, and by focusing for the first time nationally on a whole month of activities nationwide for Veterans and Military Families Month, we can more fully celebrate and recognize their contributions to the nation,” said Secretary Shulkin.

Today’s proclamation by the President is the first of many events nationwide. Also today, throughout the country VA medical centers (VAMCs) and Community Based Outpatient Centers will hold open houses.

Highlighted events for the Month include:

  • Throughout the month:
    • Senior leader visits to VA medical centers and regional offices;
    • Homeless Veteran Initiative events;
    • Surrogate Speeches;
    • Churches/Synagogues recognize Veterans and their families;
    • VA Canteen Specials
    • Suicide Prevention Events
  • November 1 – Proclamation signing by President Trump, VA Open Houses nationwide
  • November 2 – Capitol Hill Veterans Awareness & Recognition Day
  • November 4 (and several other days during the month) – Events held in coordination with Got Your Six where Veterans tell their stories of service
  • November 5 – Philadelphia Veterans Parade and Festival
  • November 6 –
    • 50th Anniversary of Vietnam War & Medal of Honor Recognition;
    • Secretary Shulkin address at the National Press Club;
    • Hiring our Heroes Summit in Atlanta along with the Atlanta Falcons
  • November 7 – Minnesota Vikings Visit Spinal Cord Injury Center – Minneapolis
  • November 9 – National Veterans Stand Out Day – Veterans will wear something meaningful to them denoting their military service
  • November 9 – National World War I Memorial Ground Breaking Ceremony — Washington
  • November 10 – Boston Parade / Marine Corps Birthday
  • November 11 (Veterans Day) – Veterans Day Breakfast D.C. and Arlington National Cemetery Veterans Day Ceremony
  • November 13-17 – Veteran Legal Clinic Week of Service (Pro Bono Legal Assistance for Veterans at VA medical centers)
  • November 13-17 – National Apprenticeship Week
  • November 13-17 – Suicide Prevention Week — Preventing Veterans Suicide is Everyone’s Business
  • November 15 – Groundbreaking Ceremony West LA Cemetery
  • November 20-24 – Spend an Hour with a Vet Week
  • November 20 – National Cemetery Administration Veteran Employee Day
  • November 28 – 10th Anniversary of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES)
  • November 30 – VA names new cemetery in the San Francisco Bay Area

The full list of events for Veterans and Military Families month is available at


A Message From Dr. Tonjua Williams

Dear SPC Family,

Like you, I have been watching the scenes of destruction and devastating floods caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas over the past several days.

I know many of you have family and friends that have been affected by this terrible situation. Along with the Board of Trustees and the whole college community, I send my thoughts to everyone who is suffering from the effects of this storm. I also want to remind you that the college offers counseling and referrals to all students, faculty and staff.

As Floridians, we know all too well the pain and anxiety that can occur during and after severe weather events like the one happening to our neighbors across the Gulf of Mexico. We also understand how important it is to reach out and lend our assistance to others in their time of need. I’m heartened to see the way people in Texas, and across the nation, are working together to help each other. It gives me hope and makes me reflect on the culture of caring we share here at SPC.

The college’s Student Life and Leadership team are accepting donations of bottled water, non-perishable food, toiletries, clothing and bedding supplies. Donations may be dropped off at any Student Life and Leadership office through 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1. The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are also accepting donations.

Please reach out if you are affected by this storm and know that we are here to support you.  


Tonjua Williams,
President, St. Petersburg College


Bay Pines to Conduct Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for New Mental Health Center

BAY PINES, FL – The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (VAHCS) will host a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new Mental Health Center located at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center on Friday, September 22, 2017. The event will take place directly outside the main entrance of the center (building 111) from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Public tours of the new building will be available from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Tours will being from the main lobby. Light refreshments will be served.  Veterans, their families and friends, and members of the community are invited and encouraged to attend.  To access and view parking directions and a campus map, click here.

The Keynote speaker for the ceremony will be Steve Young, Deputy Under Secretary for Health Operations and Management, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Young provides executive leadership and direction for the Office of Patient Centered Care, Office of the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management for Administrative Operations, Office of the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management for Clinical Operations, Office of the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Access and 18 Veterans Integrated Service Network Offices. Read his full bio here.

In addition, local and regional VA leaders from the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network (VISN 8) and Bay Pines VA Healthcare System will provide remarks.  The ceremony will also include musical performances, and traditional military tributes.

“The activation of the new Mental Health Center at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center is an example of VA’s nationwide modernization priorities, demonstrates significant progress as it relates to our strategic objective to transform delivery of care, and is a major accomplishment for Bay Pines, and more importantly, the more than 108,000 Veterans who seek care from the healthcare system each year,” said Suzanne M. Klinker, Director, Bay Pines VAHCS.

“The opening of this beautiful new facility will allow our dedicated mental health professionals the opportunity to deliver state-of-the-art, integrated, and Veteran-centered mental health services to America’s heroes in a convenient and accessible location,” she said.

The new Mental Health Center is approximately 180,000 gross square feet – 155,000 of which is net usable square feet. When completely activated, the facility will bring together the majority of mental health programs and services together into one location. The first phase of activation will occur on Monday, September 25, when the outpatient mental health clinic located on the first floor opens to serve Veterans. The second and third floors of the building will open in the months following the activation of the first floor. Features of the new building include natural lighting in patient care areas to promote a healing environment and to reduce energy costs, and various solar, water, and electricity efficiency systems. View photographs of the new building here: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3.

Parking for the ceremony will be available nearby. Shuttles will provide transportation for guests from parking lots to the National Cemetery. The venue is handicapped accessible. A sign language interpreter will be available for the hearing impaired. The ceremony will be held rain or shine. For further information about the event, please call 727-398-9531 or email

Bay Pines to Host POW/MIA Day Remembrance Ceremony Sept. 12

The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, in collaboration with the Veterans Benefits Administration and the National Cemetery Administration, will host a Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action (POW/MIA) Remembrance Ceremony on Tuesday, September 12, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. in the courtyard (located between buildings 2 and 37) of the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center Campus. Click here to access driving directions and a campus map.

U.S. Army Veteran, Sgt. Edward DeMent will provide the keynote address. Sgt. DeMent is one of 143,374 U.S. servicemen and civilians who were held captive by Germany and Japan during World War II. He was captured by German soldiers after his B – 24 bomber was shot down over Mostar, Yugoslavia. After spending 392 days as a prisoner of war, he was liberated by Army Gen. George S. Patton.

There will also be a motorcycle ride provided by local Veteran Service Organizations throughout the VA Medical Center campus. Observers will gather at 9:30 a.m. behind building 37.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is a day of observance for all Americans to pause in remembrance of the sacrifices and service of those who were POWs as well as those who are MIA, and their families. National POW/MIA Recognition Day has come to symbolize the steadfast resolve of the American people to not forget the men and women who gave up their freedom to protect ours.

There are currently more than 1,700 American personnel listed as missing and unaccounted from the Vietnam war alone by the Department of Defense and over 800 since.

For general information about this event please contact Jennifer Banak, Former POW Advocate, at 727-398-6661, extension 17727. This event is open to media. For advanced information please contact Jason Dangel, Public Affairs Officer, at 727-398-6661 extension 15031.


The Forever GI Bill

The President signed into law the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act also known as the “Forever GI Bill®” which will bring significant changes to Veterans education benefits. The law is named after the American Legion national commander who wrote the original GI Bill language in 1944, and will allow more Veterans to use the GI Bill and more time to use it. Some of the changes will go into effect immediately, and some are written to go into effect shortly after.

Some new provisions that go into effect immediately include:

  • The 15-year time limitation for using Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits is eliminated for Veterans who left active duty on or after January 1, 2013, and qualifying dependents (Fry children who became eligible on or after January 1, 2013 and all Fry spouses).
  • Reservists who had eligibility under the Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) and lost it due to the program sunset provision will have that service credited toward the Post-9/11 GI Bill program.
  • Certain work-study is permanently authorized; previously it had to be re-approved by Congress every few years.
  • The VetSuccess on Campus program will be available to students across the country
  • VA will help Veterans to more clearly identify schools that offer them priority enrollment

The majority of the changes enhance or expand education benefits for Veterans, Servicemembers, Families and Survivors. Simple breakdowns to a portion of the provisions can be found here.

Bay Pines Fisher House to Host Open House on Sept. 1


The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System Fisher House will host a community open house on Friday, September 1, 2017 from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  The Fisher House is positioned on the east side of the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center campus located at 10000 Bay Pines Blvd., Bay Pines, FL 33744. Click here to reference driving directions and a campus map.

Guests who attend the event will be treated to guided tours throughout the day. The event will also feature an information booth, finger foods, and light refreshments.

The Bay Pines Fisher House is “a home away from home” for families of Veterans and military service members receiving care at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center.  The nine bedroom facility gives family members an opportunity to be close to their loved ones during hospitalizations by providing comfortable lodging in a calm environment, only steps away from the medical center. Family members and caregivers of Veterans who live 50 miles or more from the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center can stay at the Fisher House free of charge with a referral from a Veteran’s respective social worker.  Lodging is on a first come, first served basis.  Reservations are not accepted.

In November 2016, Bay Pines was selected nationally to receive a second, 16-room Fisher House. Construction is expected to begin in the next 3 years. Read more about the second house at:

Members of the local community can be part of the Fisher House mission.  The Bay Pines Fisher House depends on volunteers and monetary donations from individuals and groups to support its programs.  To learn more about how you can help the Fisher House, please consider attending the open house on September 1, visit the Bay Pines Fisher House webpage at, or call (727) 398-6661, extension 11350.

Warrior Bridge

Warrior Bridge is ServiceSource program that helps veterans with disabilities transition from military to civilian life and reintegrate into their communities.

We provide job placement… affordable housing… B & G Endowment Funds (one-time, emergency grants to veterans for housing, health, transportation, and work-related needs… Veterans Mall (storeroom of kitchen, bath, and bedroom essentials and job-interview clothes given for free to injured veterans referred from the Bill Young and James Haley VA Hospitals who are transitioning from homelessness to apartment life, and… in partnership with The Home Depot Foundation, the renovation of residences and facilities serving veterans―all at no cost.

To date, the Mall has helped 1,700 formerly homeless veterans enjoy the stability of a healthy, secure home environment and avoid a return the streets, and, thanks to Home Depot, we’ve renovated 52 veterans’ homes and facilities, rendering them accessible, safe, and energy-efficient.

We also have veterans volunteer opportunities, especially the landscaping and re-nourishment of our Veterans Tribute Garden, Pavilion & Flag Salute in Clearwater.

If you encounter any veterans in need of our services or would like visit the Mall at the address below, please let me know.

Frank De Lucia Florida Program Development Executive

Strategy and Innovation

Warrior Bridge | ABILHouse | Veterans Mall | HS/HT

Abilities, Inc. dba ServiceSource Florida Regional Office 2735 Whitney Road Clearwater, FL 33760-1610 727-600-8900