San Joaquin Valley Vets Protest Lack Of Clinic Funding

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FRENCH CAMP-

Several dozen military veterans demonstrated their frustration over the inability of Veterans Affairs to fund a long promised medical clinic just outside Stockton.

They shouted “No more delays” as traffic drove by outside the existing VA clinic near San Joaquin General Hospital.

The protesters say the smaller clinic doesn’t provide the special services a full service clinic would provide. The VA approved a new clinic and and a nursing home in 2009. A 52-acre site was identified in 2011, but the $368 million needed for construction has never been approved in the VA budget by Congress.

Vietnam Vet Tino Adame who also commands the district 11 American Legion says he’s had to stay overnight in a hotel to make morning appointments at the Palo Alto VA clinic because the care he needs isn’t available.

He said the facilities are needed for the growing number of vets that now live in the valley and the surrounding foothills who find it hard to make the drive to the Bay Area.  He said vets are getting older.

“Our Vietnam veterans are now advocating for our younger veterans, Afghanistan, Iraq veterans…they’re the ones coming home now…we need to get these facilities ready for them,” said Adame.

Veteran Lanny Bower says it’s alarming that the 2015 budget does not include construction funding.

“The concern is whether we’ll get funding next year now,” said Bower.

The protest was prompted by news that the Palo Alto clinic has been approved for a $111 million expansion.  They feel valley veterans are not being treated equally.  Originally the completion date was set at 2016, then 2018.  But with no guarantee of funding, there is no new estimate of when the clinic and nursing facility will be finished, if at all.

Local elected officials have been lobbying in Washington for construction money, but so far nothing is guaranteed.

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