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Operations Veterans members will get a face-to-face with Cuomo next week

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OGDENSBURG — A group of north country veterans and their supporters will meet next week with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to discuss the possibility of establishing a veterans hospital in Ogdensburg.

Building such a hospital closer to home has been the chief objective of Operation Veterans since the group formed in 2011.

There are outpatient clinics for veterans in Watertown, Massena and Malone. But veterans say they offer limited services. Veterans and their supporters say Syracuse and Albany are too far to travel to receive more specialized medical services, especially for elderly and disabled veterans.

“The distance between is about 135 miles one way and 270 miles round trip,” organization member Susan J. Rupert said. “For veterans traveling from Malone or Franklin County to Albany, it is even farther than that.”

Waiting times and appointment dates are also a hassle, she said.

“The waiting period is outrageous,” Ms. Rupert said. “We had a veteran who recently went down and scheduled an appointment in Syracuse, and was told he wouldn’t be seen until October for a test that he is supposed to have every three months. A lot of veterans can’t make the trip. It is getting expensive. That, combined with the age of some of the veterans, some of them are forgoing treatments because of it.”

In addition to outlining the needs of veterans, Operation Veterans will highlight the economic benefits of establishing a hospital.

“You are talking about jobs for out-of-work nurses and internships of the college students,” Ms. Rupert said. “Instead of having to go out of the area, students and graduates can work right here. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of the college students.”

Mr. Cuomo’s office offered to meet with Operation Veterans after seeing an informational packet it sent. The meeting will be Tuesday.

Operation Veterans members will propose use of the Pritchard Building at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, 1 Chimney Point Drive, as a possible site.

The group is looking for letters of support from community members, particularly veterans, to take to Albany. Letters may be sent to 925 Ford St., Ogdensburg, N.Y. 13669.

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