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(Washington, D.C.) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray has sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki about the critical need to establish a new, full-time Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) on the North Olympic Peninsula. In her letter, which urges the VA to include funding for a new clinic in the Department’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget, Murray cites the growing need for veterans care in the Northern Peninsula region and rising enrollment at the current Port Angeles facility. In addition to sending the letter to Secretary Shinseki, Murray also hand delivered the letter and discussed this issue with Dr. Robert A. Petzel, the VA’s top health official, yesterday in a meeting in her office.

“For too long, the needs in the North Olympic Peninsula have outpaced VA’s ability to provide veterans in the region with adequate health care services,” said Chairman Murray. “ While the current lease has been extended until the end of fiscal year 2012, I believe that veterans in the North Olympic Peninsula cannot wait any longer for a new clinic that has sufficient staff, space and hours to meet the needs of veterans living in this rural region of Washington state.”

Since its establishment in 2008, the Port Angeles outreach clinic has served more than 14,000 veterans living on the North Olympic Peninsula. As a result of the strong growth in this rural area, the Port Angeles outreach clinic has already exceeded maximum physical capacity and can neither expand services nor accommodate additional personnel. The need for care is expected to grow, with a 20 percent increase in enrollment projected over the next 10 years. Currently, the clinic occupies approximately 1,500 net usable square feet in a building owned by the Olympic Medical Center. A new CBOC would provide primary care and mental health services in a much larger space five days a week.

The full text of Chairman Murray’s letter is below:

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki: 

As you continue to work toward our shared goal of increasing veterans’ access to VA services and benefits, I write to urge your support for the establishment of a new, full-time Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Since its establishment in 2008, the Port Angeles outreach clinic has served a critical and growing need for the more than 14,000 veterans living on the North Olympic Peninsula. In FY 2010, the clinic delivered primary care and mental health services to 1,200 veterans (a 6.5 percent increase over FY 2009), and accommodated 4,876 patient visits (a 5 percent increase over FY 2009). As a result of the strong growth in this rural area, the Port Angeles outreach clinic has already exceeded maximum physical capacity and can neither expand services nor accommodate additional personnel. The need for care is expected to grow, with a 20 percent increase in enrollment projected over the next 10 years.

When I wrote to you in August 2010 requesting that the Department examine in earnest a full service CBOC to serve veterans in the North Olympic Peninsula, you let me know that the VA Puget Sound Health Care System (VAPSHCS) was working on a lease expansion proposal to develop a larger outreach clinic when the current lease with Olympic Medical Center expires at the end of fiscal year 2011 and that VAPSHCS will request that the outreach clinic be upgraded to a full-time CBOC “as space, staff and hours of operations are expanded.” I believe the time has come for veterans living on the North Olympic Peninsula to have access to the level of care and services afforded by a full-time CBOC. 

For too long, the needs in the North Olympic Peninsula have outpaced VA’s ability to provide veterans in the region with adequate health care services.  While the current lease has been extended until the end of fiscal year 2012, I believe that veterans in the North Olympic Peninsula cannot wait any longer for a new clinic that has sufficient staff, space and hours to meet the needs of veterans living in this rural region of Washington state.

As you finalize the Department’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget, I urge you to include in your request sufficient funding to establish a new, full-time CBOC on the North Olympic Peninsula.

I thank you for your enduring commitment to our nation’s veterans and look forward to learning of your plans.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
Chairman