February 18, 2014

Manchin, Rockefeller, Rahall Mark Opening of Mercer County Veterans Mobile Health Clinic

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. – At the ribbon cutting for the new VA mobile clinic he helped to bring to Bluefield, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Jay Rockefeller, along with U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) lauded the service and sacrifice of West Virginia veterans and praised the arrival of the clinic as a promise kept in expanding access to medical care for area veterans.

“The arrival of the long awaited mobile health clinic is an exciting and significant victory for our veterans in southern West Virginia who have gone without quality, accessible healthcare in their residential area for far too long,” said Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). “Showing our appreciation to the brave men and women who have served this country is something we should do each and every day. By delivering this clinic, we are paying tribute to those who have answered America’s call of duty. I especially thank my good friend, Congressman Nick Rahall, for always standing up for our veterans, along with West Virginia veteran Al Hancock, the VA, the Beckley VA center and all those who have tirelessly worked to ensure our veterans and their families have access to the care they need and deserve by bringing this much needed healthcare access to the region.”

“Delivering this mobile health clinic to Mercer County has been a goal of the Beckley VA Medical Center and local veterans for years, and I’m thrilled to see its doors open today,” said Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the longest-serving member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Veterans in southern West Virginia now have a more convenient access point to the primary and mental health care they need and deserve. I’m so grateful for the hard work of the VA, the Beckley VA Medical Center, and all the local veterans who helped make this possible. I especially want to thank my friend, Congressman Nick Rahall, who has always put our veterans first, for his tireless efforts to bring this clinic to his district. ”

“This is a big, big day, and long overdue. The arrival of a mobile VA health clinic in Mercer County means better access to medical care for our region’s veterans. It means less travel time and reduced costs for our military heroes. It is, as others have said, a promise kept,” said Rahall.

Rahall, who has been active and vocal in supporting expanded and enhanced health care services for West Virginia veterans, lobbied hard for the mobile clinic in Bluefield, as well as for a planned VA telehealth facility in Princeton.  He was successful in securing report language he requested in the annual budgets for the Department of Veterans Affairs to focus more resources on the health care needs of elderly veteran populations in underserved, rural areas.  He also communicated and spoke directly with the Secretary of Veterans of Affairs and the head of the VA Mid-Atlantic Health Care Network (VISN 6) and asked them to continue to assess the feasibility of a VA clinic in Mercer County.

“We are blessed to have caring and skilled VA staff, many of them veterans themselves, at the ready to serve our people.  They worked hard, along with me, and the many active veterans in our community, to bring this mobile facility and the planned telehealth clinic to Mercer County.  And I must say that’s how the promise for this clinic was kept – all of us working together. And that’s how the promise to our veterans will be kept – all of us working together,” said Rahall.

“Congressman Rahall is a friend to veterans and has worked with me to serve veterans and their health needs.  He has proven his commitment to me over all the years we have known each other and most recently though the legislative report guidance he authored to assist us with the mobile clinic.  The Congressman and his staff have treated me with the utmost respect and that is very important to me as a retired U. S. Air Force Sergeant from Upland Hollow in McDowell County,” said Al Hancock, a local veterans’ advocate who has been pressing for a VA clinic in Mercer County for 17 years.

“My thanks to Congressman Rahall, Senator Manchin, Senator Rockefeller, local legislators and all who wrote letters or made phone calls on behalf of our veterans; you were instrumental in making our voice heard, and bringing the mobile clinic to our area. Our veterans deserve to have health care readily available locally, and the mobile clinic makes that possible.  This is an exciting day for our veterans, Mercer County and the region. Remember to thank a veteran,” said Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Marie Blackwell, a longtime advocate for local veterans.

While noting his success in reducing the backlog of veterans’ disability claims and expanding access to education benefits and post-military employment services for returning veterans, Rahall also warned about the budget extremism in Washington that could affect local veterans.

“There are those in Washington who want to cut, simply for the sake of cutting.  Some are determined to slash and cut every budget item in sight, regardless of its impact on our veterans, or on our economy and livelihoods for that matter.  It’s that kind of mindset, and that kind of uncompromising extremism, that not only led to a government shutdown last October, threatening to disrupt veterans’ services, but also incredibly has led to the COLAs for veterans and military retirees being targeted for budget cuts,” said Rahall, who was successful recently in securing passage of legislation to protect the COLAs for military retirees from recent budget cuts. 

“Having this VA curbside health service, along with a planned telehealth facility in Princeton, ought to mean better health care for area veterans – access to primary and mental health services, as well as specialty consultative services. I say, ‘ought,’ because none of these benefits will result, nor can we expect these clinics to stick around, UNLESS veterans make good use of their many services.  Don’t give the budget extremists in Washington an excuse to take it all away,” said Rahall.

“You can be assured of my continued and unwavering support in every effort to repay the sacred debt we owe our veterans.  I will continue to champion your cause in Congress and be a resource for addressing your unmet needs.  You have kept your promise to your country, and I will always endeavor to ensure the promises to you are kept in return,” said Rahall.