North Hempstead veterans in need of medical care drive nearly an hour to the nearest Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northport, a trip that many say is taxing and inconvenient and has spurred an effort to establish an outpatient clinic closer to the aging veterans.
Veterans on the town’s Advisory Committee are collecting signatures from residents to petition federal representatives to place a community-based outpatient clinic in North Hempstead.
“Most of the veterans in Nassau County are up there in age, and it’s difficult for them to get to the facility in Northport,” said Richard DeMartino, 68, of New Hyde Park and a Vietnam War veteran who served in the Navy. “Sometimes they aren’t able to get a ride . . . It’s a long way to go.”
The clinic would essentially act as a satellite location of the Northport VA Center and provide common outpatient services such as health and wellness checkups, according to the VA website.
The North Hempstead Town Board has formally requested funding and support from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove).
“A CBOC [community-based outpatient clinic] would assist in the support system that many of these veterans have established near their homes, and friends, family and caretakers would breathe a sigh of relief to know that a clinic is open nearby to care for their loved ones,” town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a news release.
There are 47 outpatient clinics in New York State, according to the VA website. Nassau County has two community-based outpatient clinics in Valley Stream and in East Meadow. There are three clinics in Suffolk County — Riverhead, Patchogue and Bay Shore.
A Veterans Affairs spokeswoman said the department annually prepares a capital plan identifying projects for future facilities and that “ultimate decisions” about when and where VA hospitals and medical facilities are both built and operated are “subject to the authorization and appropriations process, which is controlled by Congress.”
“The total number of community-based outpatient clinics currently operating in the VA system is 1,242. The total number of new CBOCs opened in 2017 and 2018 is 30,” a VA spokeswoman said.
Michael Aciman, a spokesman for Rice, said she agrees that another clinic in central Nassau County would be “of great service to local veterans.”
“Our office has offered to facilitate a conversation between the Town of North Hempstead and the Northport VA to discuss the next steps in this process,” Aciman added.
Kathy Garneau, a social worker and member of the town’s veterans committee, said a clinic would provide “an overall service that they [veterans] deserve.”
“We are definitely focusing on the needs of the older veterans," said Garneau of Stony Brook. "We have veterans of all ages and conflicts in the Town of North Hempstead. These people, they have served this country and they have served this country well.”