U.S. Army veteran John Savoy, 62, said that until recently, getting U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs-sponsored health care was a hassle — to say the least.
“I’d have to go into [Washington, D.C.], and just dealing with the traffic and the congestion and then the parking, once I got there, I was already hyped up,” said Savoy of Temple Hills, who served in Vietnam for one year.
But Prince George’s County and federal officials hope a new VA community-based outpatient clinic in Camp Springs, which had its grand opening Monday, will make life easier for Prince George’s County’s 65,000 veterans by making health care more easily accessible.
Melissa Spivak, spokeswoman for the Washington, DC VA Medical Center, which operates the clinic, said the new 10,000-square-foot facility is the first veteran clinic in the Washington metropolitan region to offer dental services. Veterans at the facility, located across the street from Joint Base Andrews, also will have the opportunity to consult with specialists off-site through their new “tele-health” suites.
“If there is a specialist a patient needs to speak with who’s not necessarily at the clinic, we have a suite where you can sit and visit with that clinician via a TV and remote link,” Spivak said.
Spivak said the clinic is open to any veteran, provided they can prove they served and were honorably discharged.
James R. Estepp, director of operations for the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable and the Andrews Business and Community Alliance, said the location of the new clinic, essentially next door to the military base, was the “perfect world scenario.”
“It couldn’t be more important to have the clinic outside the gate but this close,” Estepp said. “It’s great because of the large veteran presence [in the county]. And [as military families transition to civilian life], we want to keep some of them to become residents and part of the Prince George’s County community.”
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Dist. 4) of Fort Washington said she was excited to see a local clinic in the community because of her own personal experience dealing with VA medical facilities through her late father, a U.S. Air Force veteran.
“So many times, when he needed basic primary care, we would have to go all the way around the Beltway or into the city,” Edwards said. “It was an increasing drain on his failing health, but I just think about the difference this clinic could have made on his quality of life.”
Savoy said that, so far, the new clinic is a major step up from having to take a 45-minute to an hour drive to the District location to a 15-minute commute with a more relaxed and personal atmosphere.
“It seems to me that it’s easier to talk with doctors and it’s more hands-on,” Savoy said. “Something like this has been a dream of mine, and I’m glad to see that it’s come true.”