Veterans' Health Care Needs Outgrow Clinic

Seaside, CA – Marine Joseph Holt completed his service in 2002, but he still suffers from a long list of injuries. "I've torn some muscles in my chest and right arm and my back, so I've been getting physical therapy geez on and off for eight years," said the 31-year-old Holt. Ideally he should see a physical therapist two to three times a week, but it's hard to get an appointment at the Monterey VA Clinic, so he's coming in once every few months. He does have the option of receiving treatment at the Palo Alto VA, but he can't make the drive. "It hurts for me to travel because I'm assuming the fibromyalgia. The longer I have to sit, the more it hurts," he said.

"We have always been stretched thin in the physical therapy area," said Allen Hullinger, the Administrative Officer for the Monterey VA Clinic. "We only have really room for one therapist to practice in there and that therapist finds it difficult to run two to three patients at a time, which we would prefer," said Hullinger, "Right now we try to have a one on one and try to stagger the appointments as much as possible." Lack of space is a big challenge throughout the clinic. After opening in 1994 in a pre-existing building on the former Fort Ord, the VA remodeled it several times. But remodeling has its limitations, especially because the clinic is landlocked by CSUMB. "It just overgrew capacity there," said Congressman Sam Farr, "it's no longer just a drop in clinic, you've got to make reservations to come."

Meanwhile demand on this clinic is expected to increase over the next 15 years primarily because as local veterans age, they'll need more care. "What we want to try to do is build a clinic here, a new clinic, brand new from the ground up and not take over a building, and provide all the kind of services that are needed," said Congressman Farr. Congress recently approved funding to move forward with building that clinic in a different area of Fort Ord. It will have more space, staff and services, and it will also include a new Department of Defense Clinic for active duty military and their families. Allen Hullinger said the details are still being worked out, but the idea is the DOD and VA clinics will share some things. "This ultimately can certainly save the tax payer and be more efficient because these clinics are connected with one and other because they can share and take care of patients."

Veteran Joseph Holt is eager for the new clinic. "It's not that there would be an improvement in care, there would just be more care. I mean the care I'm receiving is great, but I would be able to get all of the help that I need." And he adds that it means more than access to more care. "I didn't mind spending the best years in the military. I wanted to. I volunteered. But, it's nice that it's appreciated. And these types of things prove that people care."

The clinic is slated to open in 2013. Congressman Farr says it will be named after the late Major General William Gourley who pushed for this new clinic.