Dicks drafts bill for VA outpatient clinic
by JIM CASEY
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES -- U.S. Rep Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, has drafted legislation to establish a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic at Olympic Medical Center.
The bill, if introduced, will fulfill Dicks' promise to propose a pilot ``virtual VA clinic'' in Port Angeles for the North Olympic Peninsula's estimated 14,000 vets.
Dicks made the promise during a meeting on Oct. 19 at the Port Angeles Veterans Center.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Shoreline, visited the center 11 days later and promised to introduce complementary legislation in the Senate.
The outpatient clinic in Dicks' bill actually would surpass the ``virtual'' clinic in which OMC would support various providers at multiple locations in Port Angeles.
In Dicks' draft, OMC would furnish facilities, and the Veterans Affairs department would provide staff.
``The political pressure is now on our side,'' said hospital Commissioner Jim Leskinovitch as he shared Dicks' draft with other commissioners at their meeting Wednesday at the hospital.
Vets endure long ride
Veterans seeking VA treatment currently face riding a Disabled American Veterans van on a 200-mile round-trip from Neah Bay to the VA hospital in Seattle or to a clinic in American Lake.
The ride can last 16 hours.
During flu and cold season, it can take seven to eight days to reserve a place in the van -- which vets must share with others who may have contagious ailments.
Leskinovitch also said Veterans Affairs was exploring the possibility of opening the clinic at Coast Guard Group/Air Station Port Angeles to vets who are enrolled with the VA.
Leskinovitch, a retired Coast Guard captain, has led the push for a veterans health care facility, helping to generate 1,000 letters to VA officials and 10,000 signatures on petitions supporting the clinic.