SGV Veteran Hospital Needed
By Sean Telles
In 2010, Los Angeles County had the highest number of military recruits in the United States, according to nationalpriorites.org. As this is a historic trend, Los Angeles Country has two veteran hospitals, one in Long Beach and another in West Los Angeles. However, San Gabriel Valley veterans have been left out in the cold. With some of the highest veteran enlistment percentages in the county, perhaps it is time to get our San Gabriel Valley heroes a hospital of their own.
This past week I was invited as a guest to help a Korean War veteran friend attend his Long Beach veteran hospital appointment. Due to polio and a condition with his eyes, he has difficulties walking and seeing. I was happy to help out a friend, and pleasantly surprised with the overall experience, as the staff were generous and kind, and the volunteers, patients, and families were overwhelmingly positive. However, I did come to realize our local veterans are not receiving equal treatment.
For example, my friend was offered free regular physical therapy – which I’m sure would improve the quality of life of my friend as well as those around him, through improved health leading to increased independence and happiness. However, due to the distance between his home in the San Gabriel Valley and his doctors in Long Beach, he had to politely decline the generous offer. I witnessed a similar situation with a World War II veteran from Whittier whose caretaker daughter does not have the resources to invest multiple full days of care to drive her father to Long Beach.
The more I thought about it, I realized the veterans and their families who live in and around Long Beach and West Los Angeles aren’t paying the same price as San Gabriel Valley families and are receiving superior service. They don’t pay the same transportation costs, such as gasoline; they can visit the hospitals in half or even a quarter of the day – whereas San Gabriel Valley veterans usually chalk out an entire day to see a doctor; and Long Beach and West Los Angeles veterans and their families can more easily accept regular treatment, such as physical therapy, while my SGV friend must turn it down.
As Americans we are guaranteed equal treatment and this hospital situation seems entirely unfair. The equal protection clause of the 14th amendment was used to end segregation – as well as other more controversial decisions such as affirmative action. Perhaps it is time we justly demand equal treatment for our San Gabriel Valley veterans and get a Veterans Hospital built in South El Monte or a surrounding area. In addition to supporting our local heroes, it would bring jobs and peace of mind to military families, and most importantly, it would finally level the playing field and the price of admission for our veteran’s treatment.