VA outpatient clinic proposed for Hagerstown

June 10, 1997


Staff Writer

At least once a month, Lewis Shatzer gets to the VFW in Hagerstown by 8 a.m. to wait for the van that will take him to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center east of Martinsburg, W.Va.

The 75-year-old World War II veteran does not have a car, so he must rely on the VFW van to take him to his medical appointments at the VA center. Once his appointment is finished, he must wait for everyone else who rode the van to finish their appointments, and often doesn't get home until 4 or 5 p.m.

"We got to wait there for everyone else to get done before we can leave," Shatzer said. "We spend the whole day."


For thousands in the Tri-State area, the VA Medical Center near Martinsburg is the only place where they can receive discounted health care.

That might soon change, however.

An aide to U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., said the Western Maryland Hospital Center is the leading candidate to receive a proposed VA outpatient clinic.

Phil Straw said a clinic at the Pennsylvania Avenue chronic-care Western Maryland Center would be handy for veterans in Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland and those in Southcentral Pennsylvania.

Straw said officials have looked at other spots in Washington County, but he said the hospital is the most desirable because of its location and because the third floor is not being used.

"That appears to be the preferred site," he said. "The vets feel as though it's an ideal location."

Many local veterans and others have praised the choice.

"This thing here is badly needed," said Ray Linebaugh, president of the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County.

"It will ease the workload of the Veterans Center and it's more convenient for a lot of veterans in the Hagerstown area, especially ones who don't have access to transportation."

Shatzer, for instance, said he could get on a bus close to his East Washington Street home and get to the clinic whenever he wants to.

"You can just take a bus and then when you're done, you don't have to wait for everyone to get done," he said.

The clinic could offer checkups, medical care for illnesses and many other services that do not require long-term hospitalization, officials said. Prescriptions could be filled there, officials said.

Raymond Hershberger, 66, said he is in a better situation than some veterans because he drives. Still, the Korean War veteran said the trip to Hagerstown from his Smithsburg home would shave about 40 miles from his drive.

"That adds up a whole lot as far as miles and the gas," said Hershberger, who estimated he goes to the hospital about once a month. "It would be a lot handier if we had (the clinic) here. They have nothing at all for veterans in Western Maryland."

Ray Cuffin, assistant quartermaster at VFW Post 1936, said the 14-seat van bound for Martinsburg usually is filled every Thursday. An outpatient clinic would be a boon, he said.

"I think it's a super idea," he said.

Jim Sprecher Sr., commander of AMVETS Post 10, said he and other veterans lobbied for a clinic at Fort Ritchie when the base closes. A Hagerstown clinic would be even better, he said.

Straw said Bartlett has written a letter to the chairman of the subcommittee in charge of veterans affairs. He said he hopes to have a clinic in place by Labor Day.

"What we're trying to do is prevent any delay due to bureaucracy, red tape or unexpected slowdowns," he said.

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