Relatives of veterans injured in the Iraq War now can stay in NASA Ames Research Center’s employee exchange lodging at Moffett Field, Calif., at reduced or no cost, while the families visit injured relatives at a nearby veterans’ hospital.

The NASA Ames Exchange Council is allowing relatives of injured service members to stay at the NASA Exchange Lodge at reduced cost while the Iraq War veterans are under treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital, Palo Alto, Calif. This will enable families to visit their loved ones — sometimes for extended periods — and offer vital support during the service members’ recovery, without the family having to incur the potentially overwhelming financial burden of lodging in California’s high-cost Silicon Valley.

“Palo Alto is a very expensive place to stay, and I know our nurses and social workers have struggled to help the families of these service members with accommodations and other needs during their stay here,” said Elizabeth Freeman, director, VA Palo Alto Health Care System. “With this commitment from NASA Ames, a lot of pressure and worry will be lifted from the families and our staff. I am so grateful,” she added.

“We are thrilled that NASA Ames Research Center can reach out to our injured veterans and their families in their time of need,” said Lewis Braxton, director of center operations at NASA Ames. “It is a wonderful example of two federal agencies working together in these turbulent times.”

“I was first alerted to the issue of family members not being able to find affordable lodging in the Bay Area to be with their recovering service members by Jerry O’Connell (of Ames’ Plant Engineering Branch),” said Gus Gold, assistant director of center operations at NASA Ames, located in Silicon Valley. “He gave me a call asking if there was anything NASA could do for these families. Shortly thereafter, the Ames Exchange Council took up the challenge and created a very low-cost lodging package for family members referred to the Ames Lodge by the VA Hospital,” Gold explained.

The Ames Exchange has reserved five rooms for use by the veterans’ families, according to Gold. The Exchange equipped the rooms with combination television, digital video and videotape players, as well as refrigerators and microwave ovens. “Also, we have added new washers and dryers to our guest laundry facilities, so family members staying long enough to wash clothes can do so right here at the Center,” Gold added.

The NASA Exchange Lodge is within walking distance of a military commissary and exchange stores at Moffett Field, noted Lynda Haines, chair of the NASA Ames Exchange. “The families have easy access to food and other services at those facilities,” she said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to give the families a safe and comfortable place while they are visiting injured family members,” Haines added.

Family members in need of low-cost lodging will be referred by the VA Hospital social worker’s office. The Lodge will be notified of the authorization via fax from the social worker’s office directly to the reservation desk.

According to Robyn Medcalf, a supervisory VA Hospital social worker, funds are available to pay the room charges for families who can’t afford the rate.

“We have been accommodating families on site at the VA Hospital, but we often run into an overflow situation,” Medcalf said.

“We are collaborating with Onizuka Air Force Station, Calif., which has volunteered drivers to take family members who don’t have transportation back and forth from the Lodge to the Palo Alto VA Hospital,” Gold said.