"If men and women put their lives on the line in defense of this nation, promises made to them must be kept," Sen. Bernie Sanders said upon announcing that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will open a new health clinic in Brattleboro, Vermont. The clinic will provide veterans in the region greater access to primary health care without having to travel long distances to VA hospitals. Sen. Sanders, a member of the Senate veterans' affairs committee, told the Brattleboro Reformer, "I'm really excited about this. It's going to improve the quality of care." Phil Reeve, commander of the American Legion Post 37 in Bellows Falls, told the Reformer. "I think this is marvelous. Sen. Sanders has worked very hard for veterans and we appreciate all of the efforts he has made on our behalf."
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake notified Sanders in a letter that the Community Based Outpatient Clinic was approved.
Sen. Sanders said, "We desperately need this veterans' health clinic in southeastern Vermont. This clinic will bring health care closer to our veterans so they don't need to travel all the way to White River to get the care they deserve."
Ron Wetherby, commander of American Legion Post 5 in Brattleboro, told the Reformer, "People are going up there almost every day. Some of them are elderly and they have to wait all day for a van sometimes. I was hoping they would pull this off and it looks like they did," said Wetherby. "We've been praying for this for a long time."
The community clinics usually provide access for veterans to primary care physicians, laboratory tests, medications, mental health services, and preventative services such as flu shots. Many Brattleboro area veterans have long called for a clinic in this part of the state. Veterans living in nearby Keene, New Hampshire also will benefit.
Community Based Outpatient Clinics are part of a national effort to transition the VA from a hospital bed-based system of care to a more efficient health care system focused on primary care. These clinics are chosen based on an analysis of the distance to other health care services, accessibility, relationships to other veterans' services, and possible care-provider partnerships.
"We do have an awful lot of veterans going to White River Junction and quite often, if the veteran can't drive, we have people to get them up there," said Commander Phil Reeve.
Sanders first wrote to New England VA officials last February requesting the establishment of a clinic in the Brattleboro area. Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch cosigned the letter. Sanders also raised the issue directly with Secretary James Peake when he visited Vermont this summer at Sanders' invitation.
To read the Brattleboro Reformer article, click here.
To read the Brattleboro Reformer editorial, click here.