Medical Facilities for Veterans in the Region Expand

By John Clay

Published 02/26 2014 10:34PM

Updated 02/26 2014 10:52PM

This week, the U.S. Secretary of Defense outlined major cuts for bases around the country and for servicemembers directly. These are only proposed cuts, but a dark cloud is forming over the military community right now.
However, there is sunlight breaking through into our region for veterans. The hospital and clinic system that serves veterans for 14 counties in our area is dramatically expanding.

Its estimated as many as 50,000 veterans in our region are eligible to get services at the James E. Van Zandt Medical Center in Altoona or its 3 clinics.
Bill Lightner is a gold medalist with the national veterans wheelchair games. This wheel chair sprinter doesn't let anything slow him down.
And the director of this facility is feeling the same way these days. In a time of cutbacks the medical center is expanding.
Clinics in State College and Johnstown are nearly doubling in size. Johnstown's in April and State College's in December. And they're opening 2 new clinics within a year in Indiana and Huntingdon counties. This summer, at the main facility in Altoona, they're breaking ground on a new behaviour health building. This art class is under that umbrella, allowing veterans to find a positive outlet for their pain and trauma.

And with more veterans returning from war, the need has never been greater. Never in its 64 year history has there been expansion like this at these facilities. Local veterans tell WTAJ, "it's about time". They hope to break ground on that near 10-million dollar behavioural health facility in Altoona this summer.

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