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Outpatient clinic dedicated to veterans' needs

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

The Department of Veterans Affairs is showing its commitment to veterans living on the south side of Atlanta with a new 10,000-square-foot community-based, outpatient clinic in Stockbridge.

The clinic, at 175 Medical Boulevard, next to Henry Medical Center, is affiliated with the Atlanta Veterans Administration Medical Center. It was dedicated during a ceremony Dec. 19.

"We should remind ourselves of the sacrifices that have been made by so many," said Commissioner Pete Wheeler, of the Georgia Department of Veterans Services, during the ceremony.

"The veterans come first, and the opening comes after," said James A. Clark, director of the Atlanta VA Medical Center. "Keeping our promises to those who've promised to keep this country safe is what this presentation is all about."

Wheeler and Clark were joined at the event by Robin L. Hindsman, Quality Management Officer for the Veterans Administration Southeast Network; Jason Skipper, Regional Representative for U. S. Sen. Johnny Isakson; U. S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland; Stockbridge City Manager Ted Strickland; and Lawrence A. Biro, network director for the VA's Southeast Network.

According to Clark, even before the formal ceremony, the clinic opened its doors earlier this year and immediately began treating patients. Thus far, the facility has already treated 1,000 veterans.

The building, which houses the clinic, is not new. Renovation began November 2007, to achieve the specifications for the outpatient clinic, explained Greg Nobles, an associate broker for Metro Brokers GMAC Real Estate.

Work on the clinic was completed Sept.15 of this year. The VA chose the site because of its proximity to Henry Medical Center. "Community support to have it here was strong," said Nobles.

Nobles, who has friends and family members who are veterans, said he supports the clinic in Henry County. "I wanted this project to work. It was important to me."

Congressman Westmoreland told the crowd that, as a child, he had his childhood heroes, but when he was first elected to office, he visited the veterans at the Walter Reed Medical Center.

"I met some real heroes there," Westmoreland said. Veterans are heroes, he continued, because they are the individuals who defend the way of life to which many have become accustomed.

Biro informed the group more than 300,000 veterans served by the VA's Southeast Network have special needs, such as health, education and housing, which must be met.

He also included the need to provide assistance to veterans' families for funerals and burials, when the need arises. He said the care offered to them will be "second to none."

He also pledged that the department will continue to maintain or expand current services, and offer new ones as they become available. In addition, he said, based on the outcome, each veteran will be "personally satisfied."

Many veterans have physical, emotional or mental ailments, which must be treated, Biro said. "Our job is to assist in removing that pain and suffering. We're in the business of helping veterans, helping them improve the quality of life."

Strickland, himself a veteran, presented a proclamation, drafted by Stockbridge Mayor R.G. Kelley, to show appreciation and support for the outpatient clinic.

"There are plenty of veterans, who live in this area, who will be served by coming to this clinic, and not have to travel a long distance. We need more of these centrally located places veterans can get to," Strickland said.

Greg Kendall, public affairs officer for the Atlanta VA Medical Center, said the three promises Biro made to veterans during the ceremony indicate the level of support they can expect to receive. "It's not just a slogan. It's really true. This symbolizes the fact that we will continue to provide easier access to all veterans in the state of Georgia," said Kendall.