February 15, 2015

Mission accomplished: Victory for area veterans | Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Victory! After years of fighting for an actual brick and mortar veterans clinic for Mercer County, the resounding plea of our local war heroes has finally been answered by the Veterans Administration. A permanent VA clinic is coming to Mercer County. The mobile clinic that has served our region for the past year will be pulling out of Bluefield this summer as the doors to a new VA clinic are opened at 1511 North Walker Street in Princeton.

The good news was confirmed Wednesday by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who called local veterans advocate Al Hancock first to inform him of the announcement before it was made public. The phone call from Manchin marked the culmination of a decade-old struggle for Hancock, who led the fight and the tireless crusade for a veterans clinic in Mercer County.

The new Princeton VA Clinic will be an extension of the Beckley VA and will offer access to primary care and telehealth services. The clinic will have the capacity to provide primary care services to a total of 1,200 veterans. Additional telehealth access to a variety of specialty consultative services will be available. Veterans currently receiving primary care services at the mobile clinic currently stationed on Stadium Drive in Bluefield will be reassigned to the new Princeton VA Clinic, according to Beckley VA Medical Center Director Karin L. McGraw. Besides primary health care services, the new veterans clinic will also offer telehealth access to specialty consultation services. For example, if a veteran needed a consultation with a dermatologist, one could be arranged with a specialist in Richmond, Va., through the telehealth program.

The new clinic will serve veterans in Mercer, McDowell and Monroe counties as well as Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Summers and Wyoming counties.
“It looks like things are going to happen,” Hancock told the Daily Telegraph Wednesday after hearing from Manchin. “As I told people at the Beckley VA Hospital, I’m going to encourage veterans all I can to use this facility. I was told they were being overwhelmed at the mobile clinic, and that there were over 600 veterans that use it. I was expecting 400 or 500, but boy, that knocked me down when I heard about the 600. All these years I’ve been doing the best I can for my fellow man. This new clinic is not Al Hancock’s clinic. It’s for the veterans.”

There are many people to thank for helping to make this dream a reality — and first and foremost is Al Hancock. If it wasn’t for the tireless fight of Hancock, there never would have been a mobile clinic, or now an actual brick and mortar clinic for Mercer County.

We also thank those lawmakers who have led the fight to get a VA clinic in Princeton. This includes Manchin, who worked closely with Hancock and local veterans to make this dream a reality. The same goes for former Congressman Nick Rahall, who was instrumental in leading this fight and getting the mobile clinic to Mercer County, and his successor, U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., who during his first month in office met with VA officials to renew the push for a permanent clinic in Mercer County.

Finally, we must applaud those 600-plus veterans across the region who made use of the mobile clinic, and in doing so demonstrated the great need for a permanent VA clinic in our region. To everyone who fought the good battle, we say thank you and congratulations.

This long fight appears to be nearing an end. Your voices were heard in both Charleston and Washington. The mission of securing an actual brick and mortar VA clinic has been accomplished.

By:  Editorial