Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 2, 2013

Manchin talks Mercer VA clinic

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

ATHENS — Click here for video part 1

Click here for video part 2 (long)

One of West Virginia’s senators in Washington, D.C., hopes to hear within 90 days from the Veterans Administration about whether Mercer County could have an outpatient clinic to serve area veterans.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., visited veterans Monday at Concord University to learn more about their needs. During a press conference at the campus student center, Manchin was asked about the efforts to get a veterans outpatient clinic in Mercer County. Local veterans have worked for years to get a clinic that meets basic health care needs so they would not have to travel to the VA medical center in Beckley for treatment.

Renovations started recently on a more than $10 renovation at the VA medical center in Beckley. Manchin said he did not believe this project “would be hindering” whether a veterans clinic opened in Mercer County.

“I know our staff has been working very, very closely with this, and hopefully we will have some decisions very soon,” Manchin said.

When asked whether there was a timeline or date for hearing a decision from the VA, Manchin said with sequestering problems in Congress and cutbacks in budgets, “anything can fall through the cracks at any time. But I would hope in the next 90 days we will hearing something, and hopefully that something will be positive.”

“I really believe that we have made a solid case (for the clinic),” he continued. “I know we’ve shown the value of this clinic locally. I know that we’ve sold it and it makes sense; now it’s just a matter of making sure the transaction happens. I’m very hopeful, but I don’t want to build anyone’s hopes up because we could be let down overnight. But right now, I’m very hopeful.”

Establishing a veterans clinic in Mercer County would aid the large number of veterans in southern West Virginia, Manchin said.

Al Hancock, of Bluefield, an Air Force veteran and local veterans advocate, said that he and other local veterans have been working for 16 years to get a Mercer County clinic. He added that he was still optimistic about the possibilities for opening one.

“I’m pretty sure before this year is gone, we should have something in Mercer County,” Hancock said after the meeting. “The thing with this budget stuff going on, we might have a delay, but I’m sure we’re going to have a clinic. I just hope I’m here to see it.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com