Helping vets a benefit

April 19, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

Before the Department of Veterans Affairs opened its community-based outpatient clinic in Hagerstown in 1998, many veterans had to travel to Martinsburg, W.Va., or Pennsylvania to receive their medical care.

Some veterans just didn't seek help at all, according to C.T. "Carol" Cadle, who served as clinic coordinator in Hagerstown from 1999 until her April 1 retirement.

"The true testament is that more than 4,000 veterans have been seen at the Hagerstown clinic in just six years," Cadle said, adding it was one of the most rewarding experiences of her 30-year career with the federal government.


Cadle, 52, retired from her position with good memories of the accomplishments of the staff and a large group of volunteers who will continue to serve veterans' medical needs.

Situated at 1101 Opal Court off Eastern Boulevard for about four years, the Hagerstown clinic began on the third floor of the Western Maryland Hospital Center on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1998. The clinic, which is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., provides general primary care and mental health services.

Cadle said she is amazed by how many veterans still don't know there is a clinic in Hagerstown.

"There is also a misconception many veterans have that they aren't eligible," she said.

For the first year the new clinic was open in Hagerstown, Cadle still was attached to the chief of staff's office at the medical center in Martinsburg, managing the medical residency program there.

She said she was asked to go to the Hagerstown clinic as acting coordinator. But once she saw the tremendous devotion of the small medical staff toward the patients, Cadle applied for the coordinator job and got it.

"The dedication of the staff and the volunteers at that clinic is amazing," Cadle said.

Volunteers answer telephones, file material and even repair things - they do whatever needs to be done.

"There are about 40 volunteers, many of whom are veterans and family members of veterans," Cadle said. "They are just wonderful people, some with medical problems of their own."

Cadle said some veterans don't want to talk about their military experiences and the clinic staff respects that. Others want to talk and there is always an ear to listen, sometimes to amazing stories, Cadle said.

"Some veterans are hesitant to come to the clinic, saying they don't want to take benefits away from other veterans who might need it more," she said. "We tell them they earned these benefits and we are here to see they get them."

A West Virginia native, Cadle graduated from high school in Greenbrier County and then attended Shepherd College, now Shepherd University.

After working for many years with the U.S. Army, Cadle went to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1978. After stints in Beckley, W.Va., Cincinnati and Charleston, S.C., Cadle came to Martinsburg in 1985.

Now that Cadle has "cleared the post" - a military term for retirement - she plans to stay in Martinsburg, which she said feels like home to her now. She plans to travel, do some gardening and spend time with her son and granddaughter.

For more information about the Hagerstown clinic or to make an appointment, call 301-665-1462.

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