March 20, 2014 --
Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla., signed a Master Sharing Agreement Friday allowing veterans to soon receive new health care services aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany.
The agreement, signed in the MCLB Albany’s Carson Conference Room, had been in the works for more than a year.
The agreement relocates VA health care services to the Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany aboard the installation, according to Colie Young, public affairs officer, MCLB Albany.
“This is a great day for the Navy, veterans administration, the 5,800 veterans and 1,500 active-duty military living in the Albany, Ga., area,” Young said. “It is a great day because accessibility to health care services has been expanded and enhanced thanks to an agreement between Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla., and the Department of Veterans Affairs."
There were many hurdles along the way, including budget cuts, sequestrations, employee furloughs, a hiring freeze and even a government shut-down, according to Capt. Gayle Shaffer, commanding officer, Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla.
“This facility shows when we all work together what we can accomplish,” Shaffer said. “By combining Navy medicine and Veterans Affairs resources, we will bring the best in patient care. Our collaboration not only expands and enhances care, but we are able to deliver that care in a cost-effective manner and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
“Caring for our nation’s heroes, whether they are active duty or veterans, is an honor and a privilege,” she said.
The additional care will begin as early as April.
“We plan to actually open the clinic in August, but we are going to open some (expanded) services in April,” John Goldman, director, Carl Vinson VA Medical Center, Dublin, Ga., revealed.
Some of the services to be provided include podiatry, eye care, physical therapy and audiology, Goldman noted.
Col. Don Davis, commanding officer, MCLB Albany, said, “this is a great opportunity to serve those who have paid their dues and this gives veterans better access to care.”
“Once (service members) have completed their service in Iraq, Afghanistan or some other place in the world; when they come home and have some wounds left over, it’s nice to be able to come to a place like this for treatment,” Davis said.
Davis said some veterans are required to drive to Dublin, Ga., or Tallahassee, Fla., for medical care.
“To have a high-quality care experience here seems like an absolute win,” Davis said. “This initiative will provide veterans with a sense of comfort.”
According to Davis, many veterans served on bases that have a Commissary, Marine Corps Exchange and officers’ lounges and staff noncommissioned officers’ clubs.
“Anytime they can go somewhere and feel a sense of home, veterans will be more comfortable,” he said.
Davis also pointed out the clinic will encourage economic development.
More than 50 jobs will be added to this area, he said. Additionally, having this facility will also encourage veterans to live here.
Davis said he hopes to have a larger health care facility on base.
“I envision 10 or 15 years down the road, a (Dwight D.) Eisenhower-type (VA hospital) here, in Albany, Ga., right on the edge of the base,” Davis said. “But the first step to that is the clinic we are doing right now.”