New VA clinics symbolize our promise to our vets
Herald-News editorial April 11, 2012 9:02PM
Updated: May 13, 2012 10:31AM
We always think first to repair damage from the war we’ve just fought.
Two veterans medical clinics in the area reflect that desire — one opened last week in Oak Lawn and another will open in about a year in Joliet.
The buildings symbolize our obligation to veterans, but we have not always been people of our word on that issue. But we have started to pay due attention. It’s about time, isn’t it?
The nation has become more focused on the wide range of human damage to America’s veterans of the protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The numbers are staggering:
Roughly 300,000 veterans home from both wars will suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, which includes headaches, anxiety, depression, even suicide.
The Veterans Affairs Department has treated more than 650,000 veterans of the two wars and received about 550,000 disability claims from them.
In 2009, the Pentagon announced that of the 1.8 million people who have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan, about 360,000 returned with a brain injury.
It was not long ago that veterans in South Cook and Will counties had to drive at least 50 miles to reach a clinic. The new Hines VA clinic in Oak Lawn and the planned clinic at the former Silver Cross Hospital will be much more convenient but also will address new realities in caring for our wounded warriors — the need for mental health services as well as physical care and the fact that U.S. veterans are an aging population, now averaging 60 years of age.
The local leaders who worked diligently to persuade Veterans Affairs of the need for these clinics deserve much thanks on behalf of veterans.
The emergency care area at the old Silver Cross is being extensively renovated into a 60,000-square-foot clinic that’s expected to open next spring.
The Oak Lawn clinic, 10201 Cicero Ave., is a 10,000-square-foot outpatient center that’s three times the size of the clinic on 95th Street that it replaces.
Both facilities are merely repayment for a promise we made to our veterans — a promise worth fulfilling.