Federal emergency aid to VA could help veterans in WMass

Money would open new clinics and hire doctors nationwide

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The struggling Department of Veterans Affairs could soon be getting the financial help it needs. Monday afternoon, a bipartisan Congressional committee agreed on a deal providing 17 billion dollars to hire more doctors, and lease 27 new clinics.

The funding would help open new clinics and hire more doctors nationwide, but for the Central Western Massachusetts VA medical program, it would actually be most beneficial for the satellite clinic in Worcester.

In the past few months, the Northampton VA has hired new staff to reduce wait times. Veterans said it’s helping.

“Anything I gotta say is good, because without them, I think I’d be in more trouble than I am,” said Albert Roccabruna, a World War Two veteran who gets treatment at the VA in Northampton, but lives in Pittsfield.

We found out how more federal funding would help. The Northampton campus is the hub for veterans’ treatment and administrative offices for five counties in Massachusetts, but new figures show of the veterans treated through the Central Western Massachusetts VA Center, 43 percent are in Worcester County.

“We do transport them free for the veteran to come over here for some of those treatments for our specialty clinics because we have the space to handle some of those specialty programs,” said Central Western VA Medical Center Spokeswoman Amy Gaskill. She said with more funding, they could expand the two small clinics in Worcester County and hire more doctors to better serve veterans.

The federal plan would also pay 10 billion dollars for veterans to get treatment outside the VA system. It still needs the approval of the full House and Senate, as well as President Obama’s signature.

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