Peterson throws support behind veterans clinic


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The congressman joins Arlen Specter in pushing for an outpatient facility in Venango County.

Another federal lawmaker has gone to bat to establish a veterans outpatient clinic in the area.

U.S. Rep. John Peterson of Pleasantville has joined the efforts of the Venango County Veterans Coalition and spoken with the person who wields the power to bring a clinic to Venango County.

Peterson contacted Veterans Affairs secretary Anthony Principi on Wednesday to push for a clinic in Venango County, an effort that comes a week after U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., promised to "work very hard to bring (a clinic) to this county."

Peterson "expressed optimism" after the telephone conversation with Principi.

"Secretary Principi and I had a very positive discussion about the need for a veterans clinic in Venango County. While the Veterans Affairs Department currently has a moratorium on new clinics, Secretary Principi agreed to seriously consider allowing the establishment of a new outpatient clinic in Venango County," Peterson said.

Members of the county veterans coalition have worked feverishly for almost a year to bring a clinic here.

The clinic is needed to serve the large number of veterans in the area, according to the coalition. As it stands now, veterans must travel to either Butler or Erie to visit a VA hospital.

The coalition, which meets once a month, has remained persistent by mailing letters and speaking with area legislators.

In November, the coalition took another step forward by establishing a temporary site at Franklin Physical Therapy. Veterans can go through the preliminary stages of entering the VA system for future care at that site.

"While this process can be long and arduous, I am optimistic that the perseverance of the Venango County Veterans Coalition will pay off in the end for our local veterans," said Peterson.

"I will continue to work with our veterans coalition and Senator Specter, who chairs the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, until our local veterans have access to the quality health care services they deserve right here in Venango County," he said.

At a luncheon at the Oil City VFW last week, Specter voiced similar support for the effort.

"This clinic is very important to veterans here," Specter said. "It is a very high priority to me."

A regional Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) committee has included Venango County on a brief list of recommended locations for a new clinic. The regional committee, which is responsible for assessing the needs of veterans in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, presented its findings to the national CARES committee, which will make a final recommendation to Principi.