BURLINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders Monday urged veterans from Vermont and parts of New Hampshire to see if they are eligible for health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs and, if so, to take advantage it.
Sanders, speaking at a news conference at his Burlington office, said there have been significant improvements in veterans' care both in Vermont and across the country in recent years. The number of veterans seeking services in Vermont went up about 10 percent in the last year, but the system has the capacity to work with more veterans, he said.
There are now five community-based veterans' clinics in Vermont, but the Colchester clinic has outgrown its facility and it will be moving this fall to a building near the Lake Champlain waterfront in the south end of Burlington. There are also two informal veterans' centers.
The VA hospital in White River Junction also has undergone many improvements, including facilities designed for the increasing number of women veterans, said Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
There are programs for veterans with substance abuse issues as well as for the homeless. Those programs are in addition to health care to help veterans deal with service-related injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and wounds.
"My message today is that for the men and women in the state of Vermont who have put their lives on the line to defend this country, we have some excellent facilities available for you," Sanders said at the news conference where he was joined by two officials from the White River Junction hospital.
The VA serves about 25,000 veterans in Vermont and four adjoining New Hampshire counties, said Deborah Amdur, the director of the White River VA hospital.
"Our goal is to expand that. We do have increased capacity. There are overall about 75,000 that live in this area. So we're doing a lot of outreach to encourage them to come and seek care with us," Amdur said.
The VA now serves about 8,600 veterans at clinics in Colchester, Brattleboro, Rutland, Bennington and Newport.