Today U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (WA-02) joined U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and local veterans in Mount Vernon to celebrate the new, permanent clinic that will bring veterans health care and services closer to veterans in the 2nd District. Local veterans and community members crowded the room and spilled out into the hall of the new veterans’ clinic at the celebration in Mount Vernon today.
“Northwest Washington veterans have had to travel too far, for too long, to the get health care and services they need and deserve. This veterans’ clinic will bring veterans’ health care closer to veterans in Northwest Washington.” said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02). “Today is about you: all the local veterans who worked so hard to make this veterans’ clinic a reality.”
“Veterans in Northwest Washington have fought for our nation's freedom, they shouldn't have to fight for access to the care they deserve here at home,”Senator Murray said. “This is a big win for all of the veterans in Northwest Washington who have sat in endless traffic, searched for transportation, or sacrificed their health because they have had to travel down I-5 to Seattle to get even the most basic care.”
The new, permanent community–based outpatient clinic (CBOC) , located near Skagit Valley Hospital at 307 South 13th Street in Mount Vernon, will bring health care closer to home for Skagit, North Snohomish, Whatcom, Island and San Juan county veterans.
For a number of years, Larsen and Murray have worked with local veterans, pushing the VA to open a clinic to provide health care for Northwest Washington veterans. In 2002, Larsen introduced legislation (H.R.5087) to require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to implement a two-year pilot project for outpatient medical care in Northwest Washington. In the years that followed, Murray and Larsen pressed the VA in meetings, hearings, letters and legislation to open a clinic to serve veterans in the 2ndDistrict.
In 2007, Murray and Larsen praised the VA's announcement in of plans to open a community-based outpatient clinic in the Mount Vernon area. In February 2008, the VA opened a temporary mobile clinic at Skagit Valley Hospital to provide primary and mental health services to some veterans enrolled in the VA system. In May 2008, this temporary clinic moved to a larger facility on the campus of United General Hospital in Sedro-Woolley to offer expanded services to a larger number of veterans.
In addition to offering primary care services, the new, permanent clinic will provide mental health, social work, pharmacy, eye, ear, x-ray and dental care. According to VA estimates, the permanent clinic could eventually serve more than 6,500 veterans.
Below are Larsen’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you for that introduction. Thanks to Dr. Susan Pendergrass, and thank you to Senator Murray who has been a great leader working for our local veterans in Congress. I would also like to recognize Mayor Bud Norris and Greg Davidson, the CEO of Skagit Valley Hospital.
“Exactly one year ago today, I stood here with Senator Murray and many of you to celebrate the announcement of this clinic’s permanent site here in Mount Vernon. That was an exciting day for all of us, but what a difference a year makes!
“This building was just a shell a year ago. Now it’s a state-of-the art medical facility for Northwest Washington’s veterans. This clinic will, at long last, bring veterans health care closer to veterans in Northwest Washington. This clinic will provide 6,500 local veterans with primary care and mental health care as well as specialty services such as vision, hearing, and dental care.
“This clinic exists today because of the hard work of local veterans. You made this vision a reality. I would like to recognize a few veterans in particular – Bill Schrier, Jim Pace, George LaPold, and Dave Michel. Thank you for your work and your leadership.
“Over the last nine years, you made the case to the VA that Northwest Washington needed a clinic.
“At each turn of the road, we told the same story:
· Northwest Washington is home to a large number of veterans · For too long, these veterans had to travel too far for their health care – two hours or more each way just to see their doctor. · And for many disabled veterans unable to drive themselves, getting to and from the VA hospital in Seattle was full-day struggle, or worse.
“The opening of this clinic will solve many of these problems and finally bring veterans healthcare closer to veterans in our area.
“The opening of this clinic, however, will not solve all of the challenges facing veterans here in Northwest Washington, much less the challenges that all veterans face across our country.
“Meeting the needs of returning veterans: “This summer, a new GI Bill for the 21st Century will go into effect, restoring the promise of a full, four-year college education for many veterans of Iraq andAfghanistan. As of May 1st, veterans can apply for a certificate of eligibility for the new education benefits, and new GI bill benefits will be available starting in August.
“The new GI Bill for the 21st Century provides up to four years of education benefits at a college or university for service members who have been honorably discharged with at least 90 days of active duty service on or after September 11, 2001. Importantly, the bill extends the time available for veterans to use their GI Bill benefits from 10 to 15 years, giving veterans more time to get the education and training they need when they need it.
“Expanding Concurrent Receipt:
“For too long, disabled military retirees have been denied the full retirement and disability pay they have earned. President Obama proposed expanding concurrent receipt in his Fiscal Year 2010 budget proposal, and just last week, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would expand concurrent receipt to eligible veterans who were forced to retire due to their disability.
“House passage of the Disabled Military Retiree Relief Act is a positive step forward, and we will continue working to get our disabled retirees the benefits they have earned.
“Recognizing the sacrifices of service members: “And we also need to recognize the service and sacrifice of our current service members. President Obama just signed a law that will award a bonus to every service member who was held under “stop-loss” orders due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Although we can never repay the debt we owe our service members and veterans, this bonus will help recognize the additional sacrifices made by the men and women held past their term of duty involuntarily.
“I want to conclude by thanking again, everyone involved in bringing this clinic to Northwest Washington. Senator Murray; the VA; and most importantly, the local veterans who led this effort; thanks to all of you for your tireless efforts.”