Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki urging him to take steps to establish a full service Community Based Outpatient Clinic on the Olympic Peninsula. Murray, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, cited the growing number of veterans in the Olympic Peninsula and discussed the need to bring greater health care access to this underserved region. She urged Secretary Shinseki to use the $250 million allocated by the VA for rural health initiatives to aid the more than 14,000 Peninsula Veterans living without nearby health services.
“Our veterans have served and sacrificed on our behalf. Forcing any veteran, especially our elderly ones, to drive long distances for basic care is unacceptable,” Senator Murray said in the letter. “Local veterans should not have to commute to Bremerton for a full service CBOC or even further to the Seattle and American Lake campuses. They deserve to get the care they need close to where they live.”
The text of today’s letter follows:
Dear Secretary Shinseki:
Ease of access for rural veterans’ medical care is a top priority of mine and I feel that while the establishment of the Port Angeles Clinic is an important step in providing Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical services to a rural and isolated veteran population, it is imperative the VA begin examining in earnest a full service Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) to serve veterans in the North Olympic Peninsula.
There are over 670,000 veterans throughout Washington state. In the 2000 census, there were over 14,000 veterans living in the North Olympic Peninsula and over 40 percent of them were age 65 and older. Elderly veterans made up over 40 percent of all Olympic Peninsula counties.
I appreciated the willingness of the VA to work with me on the establishment of the virtual clinic at Port Angeles, finally providing access to some medical services for veterans in the North Olympic Peninsula, but our work is not done.
Our veterans have served and sacrificed on our behalf. Forcing any veteran, especially our elderly ones, to drive long distances for basic care is unacceptable. Local veterans should not have to commute to Bremerton for a full service CBOC or even further to the Seattle and American Lake campuses. They deserve to get the care they need close to where they live.
This year the VA plans to invest $250 million in rural health initiatives, which I have supported in the Senate as a member of the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriation Subcommittee, because I feel strongly there is a gap in services for rural veterans.
The VA needs to further examine the prospect of a full service CBOC in the Northern Olympic Peninsula in a timely manner. In the last census, Northern Olympic Peninsula counties showed a five to 10 percent growth in their veterans’ population. The VA must act to address this growing need and establish a right-sized facility with adequate services for a rural, isolated, and elderly veterans’ population.
I look forward to continuing to work with you on this important matter.
United States Senator