Sanders Hails Expanded Veterans Health Care

BURLINGTON, Vt., March 19 - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today welcomed "significant progress" on expanded health care for veterans at community clinics throughout Vermont.

"As a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I have worked hard to make sure that Vermont veterans get the quality health care they deserve," Sanders said. "I am happy to say that, in recent years, we have made some significant progress and, in the next few months, will be making even more progress."

Currently about 8,600 veterans receive care from Vermont's five Community-Based Outpatient Clinics located in Colchester, Brattleboro, Rutland, Newport and Bennington.

The clinics, including two that opened in the last two years in Brattleboro and Newport, operate as satellites of the VA medical center in White River Junction. "That means that in the very northern part of the state and in the very southern part of the state, veterans can get the primary health care they need without having to travel long distances," Sanders said.

The Rutland clinic will soon be moving to a new, larger location closer to downtown. Renovations are currently under way and should be completed by July. The new facility will have nearly 1,000 more square feet of office space than the current location.  

The Colchester clinic, the largest in the state, has nearly reached its capacity. Since opening, the patient population and staff have more than doubled. The VA has begun a process that is expected to result by next January in either expanding the clinic at its current location or moving to a larger facility in order to nearly double the current capacity.

Another major change at all of the VA clinics in Vermont is the use of cutting-edge technology known as tele-medicine. Using secure, encrypted television and computer technology, specialists at White River Junction are treating veterans in rural areas. "Tele-health care is especially beneficial to those veterans who would experience discomfort by traveling a long way to see a provider," the senator said.

Joining Sanders at the news conference were Frank Ormsbee of Newport, Vt., an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, and Lisa Lofting, a Desert/Shield Storm Air Force veteran from Putney, Vt.