A silhouette of a soldier saluting in front of an american flag.

RI Veterans: Did you know? (Resource Guide, Covid’s not over, Events…) 13-10-22 – John Cianci

by John A. Cianci, Department Veterans Service Officer, Italian American War Veterans (ITAM)

Covid update from the Veterans Home

The negative and non-symptomatic veterans in the Charlie unit residing at the Rhode Island Veterans Home remain quarantined due to several other veterans in the Charlie unit who have tested positive. The RI Veterans Home leadership decided not to separate positive Covid veterans into the Covid wing kept empty for those veterans who have tested positive for Covid, which had been the practice in the past. 

From a staff member who wishes to remain anonymous, “It’s crazy and scary for those veterans in that unit who are fully vaccinated and have tested negative because the ones who have tested positive cannot be stopped from leaving their room.”

During a memorial service held for George Lawrence (one of the veterans who resided at the veterans home who died last week), at the Rhode Island Veterans Home, a staff member of the home pointed out to RINEWSTODAY that one of the veterans from the Charlie unit who had tested positive was seen wandering around the home exposing possibly exposing others.

“I witnessed first-hand this veteran identified by staff as Covid positive in the main section of the building.  According to staff at the veterans,  the veteran who is Covid positive is restricted to his room, however, he often is found wandering in the hallways not only in Charlie unit, but also throughout the building, which I witnessed myself on Monday,” said John A. Cianci, Italian American War Veterans of the US National Veteran Service Officer. Cianci attended the memorial service. 

“It’s a potentially dangerous situation of the administration’s decision NOT to use the designated Covid wing for Covid positive veterans, ” said Cianci. “It’s crazy I can pick up veterans that are quarantined to go out to public socializing or pick them up in the rear exit, take them off the property, and have them re-enter to the front entry without being questioned.”

Former Veterans of Foreign War State Commander, FW Commander Dora Vasquez and Cianci recently met with House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi to express their concerns on the current situation at the veterans home, along with the lack of transparency on this issue from the Office of Veterans Services for the State of Rhode Island.

“Speaker Shekarchi and Rep. Camille Vella Wilkinson listened and expressed their concerns not only of the current administration of the veterans home, but the current leadership of the Office of Veterans Services, ” said Cianci. 

Speaker Shekarchi ensured the veteran leaders that an oversight committee would be established to listen to the veteran leaders’ concerns. 

Another veteran leader for the State of Rhode Island added, “it’s cronyism” on many decisions made by the current leadership of the Office of Veterans Services.

Another veteran leader communicated to RINEWSTODAY that despite multiple issues in a veterans’ organization serving thousands, the only time he received a call from Director Kasim Yarn was on the topic of whether he was going to support Governor Dan McKee for re-election.

A section of the veterans home is left vacated for Covid positive veterans. This could be an estimated $250,000 annually loss revenue to the state. Yet, veterans are waiting for care in the nursing home.

More evidence supports the decision not to use the Covid wing comes from staff and residents who have been told that the home does not have adequate staff to manage the Covid wing. However, the Office of Veterans Services says staffing is not an issue. 

As medical experts in the US government begin talking about Covid surges and new variants again, one is reminded of the Holyoke Veterans Home where over 70 veterans died of Covid, and the state of Massachusetts agreed to a $56M to settle with families.

Let us continue to pray for those veterans who have tested positive for Covid at the veterans home, and those veterans, staff, and visitors of the veterans home who could have been exposed to a Covid positive veteran who apparently the veteran home has challenges to control.  

VETTIP – This week we have one directed to the veterans home. As a former certified physical security person for the U.S. Army who maintained control similar to the home, may I suggest, deactivating the pass card for veterans who have Covid and are a challenge to control. This does not prevent the veterans from exiting the area, however, the alarm will go off when the doors are opened without the card.

From left to right, John Leonard, the late George Lawrence, John Cianci, and the late John “Jack” Choquette”

Metacom Ave. Motorist Will Miss Waving Wheelchair Veterans, AKA “Wheelchair Mafia”

Cars traveling down Metacom Ave were frequently waved to by 2-3 wheelchair veterans when they passed the entrance of the Rhode Island Veterans Home. Sadly now, a second veteran, U.S. Army Veteran George Lawrence of the group referred to as the “Wheelchair Mafia” passed away last week at the RI Veterans Home.

When this veteran first met George and the other wheelchair veterans almost 4 years ago, they jokingly referred to themselves as the “Wheelchair Mafia”, which brought laughter to all the veterans greeting them.  

Attending George’s memorial service, Deacon Scott Brown jokingly described the group known as the “Wheelchair Mafia” as a bunch of hoodlums residing at the veterans home. 

The Deacon recalled the cell phone chain style used by the hoodlums to communicate with each other, using the phones to mess with him throughout the years. All in fun and a method to entertain other veterans at the home.  

The Deacon told the attendees of George’s memorial service how he would tell a joke to one of them at one end of the building and after he left, they called the other veterans at the other end of the building. 

It didn’t take the Deacon long to realize they were messing with him. Especially, how they always knew the punchline of his new joke or before he could tell the joke to the others, they would stop him and ask to tell a joke themselves. Quite a coincidence, the same new joke he just told at the other end of the building.  

George and I first communicated when he was vice-president of the Resident Council of the Rhode Island Veterans Home. After our initial meeting, we became friends. We frequently spoke by phone and or in person. Many times, in the early mornings of the day.

Over the years, I would often visit George and bring him one of his favorites, cheese pizza. Or if I found him anchored in front of the entrance at the Veterans home, I would buy us Dunkin Donuts iced coffee for both of us and “hang out” with him, as the passing cars beeped to acknowledge George. Each and every car, George would wave to them. 

Motorists traveling past the entrance of the Rhode Island Veterans Home on Metacom Ave, will miss George’s waving back to their car beep. 

Cartoon picture of George created by Kimberly, one of his former nurses.

The family of George should be proud of him – he made a difference in the quality of life of the veterans at the Rhode Island Veterans Home. 

Rest in peace my friend, as I know you are reunited with another member of the “Wheelchair Mafia”, John Choquette, who passed away over a year ago. 


Important Contacts and Outpatient Guide For Rhode Island Veterans

Navigating any health care systems can be a stressful situation. Moreso, for veterans like myself that require appointments not only in the State of Rhode Island, but also the State of Massachusetts.  Certainly, the VA makes it easier by calling one number, 401-273-7100, however, you can only pray you are transferred to the correct extension.

The Italian American War Veterans assistant veteran service officer compiled one list from multiple VA handouts and other outreach information pamphlets as a resource for Rhode Island Veterans.

Outpatient Guide

VA Providence Healthcare System

Chalkstone Ave,

Providence, RI 02908

New Bedford Clinic                                                       

175 Elm Street

New Bedford, MA 02740

Hyannis Clinic

233 Stevens Street

Hyannis, MA 02601

Middletown Clinic

1 Corporate Place

Middletown, RI 02841

Eagle Square

75 Eagle Street

Providence, RI 02908

Common Services

Main Phone Number

These services can be reached by calling 401-273-7100 and the extension listed.

Patient Advocate Office

Have an issue you are unable to resolve with your health care team?  Patient Advocates are available Monday- Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., in room 140 across from Starbucks, and at ext.13093.

Express Care

If you have an urgent medical need, you can contact ext. 13336, or present in person Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Mental Health Urgent Care

Located in Building 1, 3rd floor, B-Wing Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., or via ext. 11487.


You don’t need a referral for a hearing test!  Call Audiology directly at ext. 21515.  The Clinic is located at Eagle Square, 623 Atwells Ave.  New Bedford Audiology Clinic can be reached at ext. 21963.

Eye Clinic

New veterans must contact Primary Care for their first eye exam referral.  After that, you may schedule eye exams directly by calling ext. 21500.

Integrative Health and Wellness Center

Located in room 243C. the center provides alternative therapies and other wellness services.  Call ext. 13082 for more information.

Nutrition Counseling Services

You can schedule nutrition counseling directly with a dietician by calling ext. 11444.

Social Workers

Social workers can assist in resolving concerns such as housing, finance, mood, relationship and physical limitation issues.  Call the Patient Call Center at ext. 13336 for a referral.

Traveling Veteran Coordinator

Help ensure consistent care while traveling! Notify the Traveling Veteran Coordinator 4 to 6 weeks prior to departure, by calling ext. 16159.

Wheelchair or Power Mobility

Enrolled Veterans who may need manual or power mobility can call ext. 13234.  The clinic is located at Eagle Square, 75 Eagle Street.

VA Caregiver Support

Open access Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Trailer 34, Appointment recommended ext. 13283.

Women Veterans

Women Veterans may receive care in the main hospital, the Women’s Clinic in T-39 or in a VA community clinic.  Call ext. 13336 for medical issues or 16191 for the program manager.

Patriot Café Canteen and Cafeteria

Located in the basement, Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Patriot Brew Coffee Shop

Starbucks coffee is served on the 1st floor near the elevator lobby open Monday – Friday7 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Patriot Store

Located in the basement, Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Vaccine Clinic

Walk-ins welcome – Friday starting at 7:30 a.m., Second floor, C Wing room 241: ext. 13021.


Building 1 3rd floor, C Wing General inquiries to Chaplain Service can call ext. 13000.

Veterans Benefits Representative

To learn more about VA benefits, aide & attendance, HISA Grants or file a claim, call 800-827-3700 or visit


Located in building 32, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Care in the Community

VA Providence Office of Community Care – 401-273-7100 ext. 13015

Community Care Patient Advocate – 401-273-7100 ext. 12893

Non-VA Care General or Billing Issues or questions – 877-881-7618

Optum Urgent Care Call Center – 888-901-6609

THE VETERAN MUST CALL THE CENTRALIZED CALL CENTER NUMBER WITHIN 72 HOURS OF ENTRY INTO A COMMUNITY EMERGENCY ROOM unless VA medical center staff sends the veteran there:  1-844-74 HRVHA (1-844-724-7842) or use the Community Care Portal:


Frequently Needed Contact info

Vocational Employment (VRRC): 401-273-7100 ext. 13411 (T35)

Patient Call Center (PCC): 401-457-3336

Pharmacy Call Center: 866-400-1241

Outpatient Pharmacy: 401-273-7100 ext. 13641

NECPAC Co-Pay Billing Office: 401-273-7100 ext. 13080

Account Balances: 401-457-3344

Medical Records & Release of Information: 401-273-7100 ext. 13481

Travel Office: 401-273-7100 ext. 13550

Eligibility and Enrollment: 401-273-7100 ext. 13616

My HealtheVet: 401-952-2655 –





October 19, 2022, 5:30 pm Rogers Free Library, Bristol RI. Lecture on Rhode Island Naval Activities During the Revolutionary War , Can register for free tickets,

October 21, 2022, 5:00 pm, Pawtucket Military Appreciation Day, Pariseau Field , Pawtucket, RI. , 21st Military Appreciation Day football game between Tolman and Shea high schools. Free for active duty and veterans, $5 admission for others. World War II veterans will be honored at the game and a free dinner on October 20, 2022, is being offered to all honored WWII veterans. If You Are a World War II Veteran, contact Joe  Janeiro, VFW Adjutant for more information, (401) 573-7057. Joe can assist coordinating a ride to the dinner or game on,

November 13, 2022, Veterans Free  Luncheon at Coventry-West Greenwich Elks Lodge #2285, social hour 1:00PM , luncheon 2:00PM, veterans are free/guest $15.00. Keynote speaker Kasim Yarn, music by 88th Army Band. Point of contact , Elks Lodge   ( after 4:00pm) 401-397-3700.


RESOURCES & ongoing groups

Below are all of the groups the Providence Vet Center is currently offering.  As this list changes, I will provide updates. Please send me any questions that you may have, thank you for your time!

***All Vet Center Groups require that the Veteran be enrolled with the Vet Center prior to attending. To check eligibility or for questions, please contact the Vet Center at (401) 739-0167 or reach out to our Veteran Outreach Program Specialist (VOPS) via email at [email protected]***

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Group (PTSD) – 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. (Group is only active September through May)

Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and Vietnam Veterans PTSD Group – 2nd and 4th  Wednesday of the month from 9:30 – 11:00 a.m.

Vietnam Veteran PTSD Group – 1st and 3rd Monday of the month from 10:30 – 12:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Art Expression Group – Every Thursday from 9:00 – 12:00 p.m.

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/Operation New Dawn (OND) Group – Every Wednesday from 11:00 – 12:00 p.m.

Stress Management – Every Thursday from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.

Low Impact Walking Group – Every Tuesday from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.

Guitar 4 Veterans – Every Wednesday from 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Monday Mindfulness Group – Every Monday from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

Yoga Group – Every Friday from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m.

Moral Injury Group – Every Friday from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.

Modern Warrior Support Group – 1st and 3rd Monday of the month from 2:30 – 4:00 pm.


Discounts for Veterans


No Problem Plumbing and Heating LLC 15% military discount , ask for Ron Gaynor, (401) 568-6666. Veterans must provide proof of eligibility with a VA Card, VA ID Card, or RI State license with veteran identification


Applebee’s – Military Discount … With more than 2,000 locations, Applebee’s is a family grill restaurant. Applebee’s gives 10% off for active duty and veteran. Last verified 07/31/2028

Denny’s – Hartford Ave, Johnston offers 10% discount for veterans and active duty . Denny’s is a table service diner-style restaurant chain.  Last verified 07/31/2028 (PS I had breakfast there on Saturday).

Outback Steakhouse – 10% Discount to active and veterans. Last verified 07/28/2021

99 Restaurant & Pub – The 99 Restaurant & Pub offers a 10% military discount to members of Veterans Advantage. Available at select locations only. Bring valid military ID



Advance Auto Parts – 10% for Active Duty, Veterans, and families. Last verified 07/28/2021

Bass Pro Shops –  Offers a 5% discount to active-duty military, reservists, and National Guard. Sign up and verify your status online or bring your military ID when you shop at your nearest Bass Pro store (source).

BJs Wholesale – Reduced membership fee. BJ’s offers all military personnel over 25% off their Membership. Last verified 07/28/2021

Lowes – Enroll in the Lowe’s Military Discount Program to activate your 10% discount – “Our way of saying Thank You” to our active duty, retired and military veterans and their spouses with a 10% discount on eligible items. Verification of your military status is fast and easy through our partner, is our trusted technology partner in helping to keep your personal information safe.

GameStop – is offering a 10% in-store military discount on all pre-owned products, collectibles, and select new products. Available to current and former military members who bring any valid proof of service or when they verify through

Home Depot – Offers a 10% off military discount on regularly priced merchandise for in-store purchases for active duty, retired military, and reservists at participating locations. Customers are required to show a valid government-issued military ID card to redeem this offer.

Kohls – 15% discount offers for active military, veterans, retirees, and their immediate family members a 15% discount on purchases made on Mondays, in store only. In order to receive the military discount, eligible customers must present proper identification along with any tender type.

Jiffy Lube – HONORING VETERANS ALL DAY EVERY DAY! – We didn’t want to wait for Veteran’s Day to express our appreciation and gratitude for your service. That’s why every Team Car Care owned and operated Jiffy Lube® service center is offering our BEST discount of 15% OFF as a “Thank You” to the men and women of our Armed Forces for their service to our country. *Disclaimer*- I.D. required. No coupon is required. Excludes batteries and brakes, alignment, and diagnostic services. Available only at select locations listed below:

Tioque Ave, Coventry RI – Bald Hill Road, Warwick RI – Park Ave, Cranston RI

Michaels – offers a 15% off military discount on the entire in-store purchase including sale items for active duty, retired military, guard, reservists, veterans, and family members. How to get –

1.    Create an Account. Log in or create a Michaels Rewards account.

2.    Get Verified. Provide your military information to get verified instantly.

3.    Go Shopping! To use your discount online and in store, just sign into your account or provide your Michaels Rewards phone number at checkout.

O’Reilly Auto Parts – 10% discount on in store items for Active Duty, Veterans and families. Last verified 3/4/21.


If you are a retailer and or a veteran aware of a business not listed above, please forward to:[email protected]:  the business’s name , location, and military and veteran discount offered.

If you have an event, meeting, other pertinent veteran information, or email questions or help needed, contact the Italian American War Veteran Service Officer, John A Cianci, [email protected], ITAM Office 1-(401)677-9VET(9838)

To read all columns in this series go to:


John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.