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VA outpatient clinic victory longtime in coming
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

As you may have heard, the Veterans Administration finally announced the location (French Camp) for the new regional community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) and 120-bed community living center.

This has been a long time coming, as I first testified before the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) Commission in 2003, highlighting the veteran population in our region and the need to eliminate their long and arduous drive over the hill to receive services.

The County made its first formal proposal to the VA in 2005. Since our efforts began in 2003, many have stepped up to push for this facility and while I can’t name everyone involved, I would like to credit those I know to have played significant roles.

From day one, Tino Adame and Cary Martin have been heavily in the mix as was Steve Spatola. Richard Pittman lent his voice to the efforts. At personal cost, Vince Nastro spent significant time in Washington, D.C., advocating.

I want to thank my fellow Board members; Steve Gutierrez, Dario Marenco, Victor Mow and Jack Sieglock, for supporting our first proposal in 2005. Huge kudos must go to Elena Reyes (County Legislative Coordinator) and Ron Green (County Veteran Services Officer) for assembling the data that justified the County and French Camp as the most geographically advantageous location for this facility. Letters of support for that location from all of the veterans organization’s had a huge impact. Director Lisa Freeman, Robert Geldman, and William Ball of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System made sure we were kept in the loop.

Also to be thanked are Congressmen Jeff Denham, Jeff Miller, Bob Filner and of course Jerry McNerney who has been an advocate since he took office in 2007. Stockton City Council members Dale Fritchen, Diana Lowery, Elbert Holman and Paul Canepa must be thanked for ensuring services will be provided to this facility.

I met with VA officials in Washington, D.C., this past April, and when I left that meeting I believed that they really saw the advantages the French Camp location would afford them. But most importantly, the location chosen was the preferred site of our veterans, and that in the end is all that matters.

I am not enthusiastic about the timeline for construction and I hope our congressional delegation can do something to push for a more favorable timeline. I have received phone calls from spouses of veterans thanking us for our efforts, while informing me that their loved one has since passed on. This speaks volumes of the veterans’ community and their family members, that although their loved one will not benefit, they are elated for future generations of veterans.

I am proud to have been involved in this effort from the beginning and I will continue pushing the effort along until the first veteran walks through the new doors and is served.

Leroy Ornellas
Supervisor, Fifth District
San Joaquin County