Amputee Becomes Award-Winning Athlete With VA's Help

Marine Veteran Richard Alcaraz (pictured above) has a new outlook on life. After receiving care through VA’s Community Care Network (CCN), he has become a competitive athlete.

Alcaraz suffered from severe dermatological issues causing his prosthetic leg to be nearly unusable. He began to lose hope he would live a normal life again and found himself feeling depressed and isolated. “I didn’t feel like I was a complete person anymore,” he explained.

The care he needed was not readily available at his local VA. As a result, he thought he was running out of options. Then a Veteran friend told him that he may be able to see a doctor in the community. Alcaraz needed to hear this news.

Treatment improved health and well-being

Once VA determined him eligible for community care, the Phoenix VA Medical Center referred Alcaraz to TriWest’s community network of providers to receive the necessary treatment, which improved his health and well-being.

Alcaraz connected to a number of organizations that sponsor competitive sports for Veterans. TriWest sponsors those organizations as part of its Veteran-centric mission.

Thanks to these connections, Alcaraz found himself participating in a number of new sports, including skiing and badminton. “When I started playing sports, it made me feel like I had a purpose again,” said Alcaraz.

Traveling the world for competitions 

Alcaraz is now a competitive, medal-winning athlete. He is a multi-year participant in the National Veteran Wheelchair Games and a Paralympic hopeful in badminton, traveling around the world for competitions.

He is grateful for the doctors, therapists and other supporting clinicians at VA and in the surrounding community. They helped him on this journey to become the accomplished athlete he is today. They gave him a new purpose and outlook on life after a difficult time.

Alcaraz hopes his story will bring other Veterans encouragement and remind them of the different options available to receive the care they deserve, whether in a VA facility or at a community provider.

“As a Vet, if you go to VA and they maybe don’t have the resources you’re looking for, you can be pointed to other sources in the community and VA will help you get the care you need,” he said.

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