After 10 years of planning and major renovations, the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center opened its newest Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) during a ribbon cutting ceremony in Gaithersburg, Sept. 7.

The first of its kind in Montgomery County the new CBOC will expand health care services to approximately 45,000 veterans. The 11,600-square foot facility surrounded by plenty of parking space, offers a primary care, mental health, women’s clinic, a space for telehealth technology, patient education, hearing aid fittings and specialty care. Additionally, it offers a shared space for community partners who offer free services to veterans.

Various veteran service organizations, active duty and war veterans cheered the platform of DCVA leadership and invited elected officials as each spoke about the long-awaited facility coming to fruition.

“The heroes beyond the patients here are the CBOC team and others that have worked into putting this clinic together,” said Charles Faselis, M.D., Acting Dir., Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center during welcoming remarks.

Addressing the audience, Faselis stated, “I set here this morning with the extraordinary feeling of pride and happiness in the VA mission, because today we’re exhibiting our commitment to care for those that have borne the battle — those who have worn the cloth of the mission — some of which have made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you, Montgomery County, thank you City of Gaithersburg for welcoming us to this new space.”

Among the distinguished guests were Raymond Chun, M.D., Acting Network Director, VISN 5, Maryland Senators, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, County Executive Isiah (Ike) Leggett and Gaithersburg Council Member, Mike Sesma, representing Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman.

“This has been a long time coming, so it’s a great day when you can arrive at your destination. We’ve been working hard to provide these health services to our veterans in this area,” Maryland (D) Senator Christopher Van Hollen Jr., said. “These are men and women who have either been fighting or willing to fight for our country. They shouldn’t have to fight through hours of traffic to get the health care that they need, and a grateful nation owes to them,” Van Hollen said. “Today we are putting an end that at this brand new CBOC. This was a ‘Team-Maryland effort, said Van Hollen, referring to the congressional and state support.

Maryland Senator (D) Ben Cardin noted, "In this year’s budget $78.3 Billion for our veterans, we are committed to protecting our veterans,” Cardin said. “Our entire team for Montgomery County has been focused on this issue. We want to honor our veterans with our words and our deeds. Today, we are honoring them with our deeds, to make sure they have a first-class facility, conveniently located to carry out our commitment to ensure that their healthcare needs are met.

At the end of the brief speeches, Councilmember Mike Sessa read a proclamation on behalf of Mayor Judd Ashman which read in part “Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic Day in the City of Gaithersburg, In honor of your grand opening and recognition of the vital care you provide to veterans and their families in the Gaithersburg community, men and women who have given so much in service to our community, congratulations and best wishes for continued success in the future.”

Afterward, the official party ceremoniously cut the ribbon, opening the spacious facility to a guided tour by Robin Peck, Women’s Health Medical Director and CBOC, Physician Team Leader.

“Right now, our schedule is wide open. We have two health providers who have zero patients each,” Peck stated. “We’re starting on Sept. 17, so the goal of the VA is Most facilities have patients within 2 weeks. I think most facilities are meeting that goal between two weeks and 30 days for new patients.” She explained having a scheduled appointment allows the team to prepare to know what’s needed, to line up all the other additional services. “Patients coming to the Women’s Clinic a veteran can have a physical exam, meet with a psychologist, have their mammogram all coordinated in one day,” she said. She stated, “The clinic has the capacity of helping 400 – 500 care teams, which roughly translates to nearly 7000 patients.”

“It’s a beautiful facility. I look forward to it opening because I’m only about 15 minutes from here,” said Ken Johnson, a former Marine veteran of five years, referring the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s newest Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Gaithersburg held Sept. 7.

“Before I had to go all the downtown to DC, which was problematic because of the parking situation. My other recourse was to travel out to a clinic at Fort Dietrich, which was a long drive, but there was no traffic,” said the Vietnam veteran. “All the staff that I’ve talked to here are very friendly and knowledgeable. I’ve already made appointments, I’m checked into the system and they know me. I’ve found the VA to be very helpful,” noted Wayne Miller, Director, Silver Spring Veteran Center Department of Veteran Affairs. “To me, this grand opening means better access to VA health care, especially in Montgomery County.”

The Marine veteran of four years, who was severely wounded in Vietnam, explained his "windshield-time" on the road would be shorter due to the close proximity of the clinic.

“We’ve had to travel so far for so long, that this community-based outpatient clinic will be better for me because I live in Aspen Hill, which is only a hop, skip and jump from here,” Miller said. “I’ll be able to come here for care rather than going to DC, Baltimore, Martinsburg, WV., or up to Fort Dietrich or Joint Base Andrews. This will be a wonderful addition to Montgomery County. They have audiology, primary care, and they also have women’s health care which hasn’t been for a long time,” he said. “Pharmacy consultations will be a lot nicer coming here rather than having it mailed to you,” said the above-the-knee amputee. “I have constant stump and weight issues. The VA has been superb to me. I’ve been blessed,” Miller said.

Veterans in Montgomery can make an appointment by calling the Patient Service Center at 202-745-8000, option 2. The clinic is located at 15810 Gaither Drive, Gaithersburg, Md. Clinic hours are 8 to 4:30pm, closed on federal holidays.