Area veterans gave a thumbs-up yesterday to a fleet of Mobile Vet Centers built by a Reynoldsburg specialty-vehicle company. The vehicles will make house calls to veterans who otherwise might not have access to health-care services.

“This is something veterans groups have advocated for years,” said Thomas R. Burke, president of the Buckeye State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America.

“They are being utilized in places that really need them.”

Burke joined area veterans and government officials on a tour of Farber Specialty Vehicles, which designed and built the 20 vehicles under a $3.1 million contract with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. They will join a fleet of 50 similar mobile clinics used to provide services to veterans across the nation.

The need would seem obvious in remote areas such as Alaska and Montana, but veterans say even in Ohio, servicemen and women can have difficulty accessing care.

“Some must drive 100 miles to a VA hospital,” said Frank D. Williams, state adjutant for Disabled American Veterans. Others, he added, are reluctant to seek help.

“We have a lot fewer fatalities, and veterans come home needing services, especially PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” said Williams, who served during the Vietnam era. “These will really help.”

Robert A. Petzel, undersecretary for health at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said Farber will receive a second government contract for $53.5 million to manufacture 230 ambulatory-care vehicles during the next five years. The shuttles will be equipped with beds to provide transportation for veterans. They will also be used for evacuations of hospitals and nursing homes during natural disasters and emergencies.

“Our top priority is expanding access to veterans,” Petzel said. “Veterans returning from war, and all veterans, will have access to counseling and other services.”

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the vehicles are serving veterans and creating jobs in Ohio.

“This means Ohio manufacturing jobs and better health care for Ohio veterans,” Brown said. “ These (Mobile Vet Centers) and ambulatory-care units are critical to fulfilling the promise we made to provide benefits and services that our veterans earned and deserve.”


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