Veterans speak out against clinic relocation

Thomas Scozzafava, supervisor of Moriah, claimed the highest percentage of Essex County veterans reside in the southeastern part of the county.

"If you move it to the northwestern end of the county, there are going to be a lot of veterans that will go without health care," he said.

Besides Elizabethtown, the nearest VA clinics to Essex County include Malone and Plattsburgh to the north and Glens Falls to the south.

Elizabethtown supervisor Noel Merrihew III, who also sits on the board for ECH, expressed concern that a more distant clinic would discourage veterans from seeking treatment until their conditions became more severe.

"The benefit I believe we have been able to provide is preventative medicine," he said. "And that's something we need to keep in mind."

Brett Thompson, a member of American Legion Post 278 in Schuylerville, presented a petition signed by 826 veterans in favor of keeping the VA clinic stationed at ECH; a number roughly equal to the veterans currently enrolled at the Elizabethtown clinic.

"When the government takes something from you, you never get it back," said Thompson. "Let me give you an example; sight, the ability to hear, legs, arms, life."

Other clinic needed, too

Frank Karl, a former commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars post 3357 in Saranac Lake, said he's been working with Congressman John McHugh's office to have a VA clinic established in Saranac Lake.

Karl showed a list of more than 4,000 veterans from the Tri-Lakes area. He said many of them travel to VA clinics in either Malone or Plattsburgh to receive care rather than take the difficult drive to Elizabethtown.

"We've been working for some time, not realizing there was any danger to the Elizabethtown clinic," he said. "Your clinic should be here, and we need one over there, and need it badly."

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