A 2020 study conducted by the Maryland Department of Veteran Affairs found that Southern Maryland has nearly 40,000 residents who are military veterans. Unfortunately, even with a high veteran population little has been done to ensure that our veterans have access to easily accessible health care.
Currently, veterans who live in Southern Maryland have no option but to drive to either Washington, D.C., or Richmond, Virginia, to receive lifesaving health care services such as critical care, mental health, radiology, physical therapy and surgery, among other things.
A 2019 Bloomberg study reported that Southern Marylanders, particularly those in Charles County, have the worst commute in the country. This makes veterans and their families have to make the difficult choice of either driving over one and a half hours to D.C. or over two and a half hours to Richmond. Both options are unfeasible and should never be asked of our veterans, especially in a life-or-death situation.
To make matters worse, Maryland does not even provide easily accessible outpatient service to our veterans. Currently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs only lists two outpatient clinics in Southern Maryland, one in St. Mary’s County and the other in southern Prince George’s County. Outpatient clinics provide limited services including health and wellness checks. These two outpatient facilities cannot possibly service Southern Maryland’s growing veteran population.
That is why it is time to build a VA medical center in Southern Maryland.
By building a medical center in the Southern Maryland region, our state could provide easily accessible and high-quality health care to our region’s veterans and also use this as an opportunity to create high-paying union jobs in the construction and development of the medical center and provide high-paying health care-related jobs.
Creating jobs in Charles, Calvert and St. Mary’s will bring in much-needed tax revenue for future investment projects and will help reduce the number of residents who rely on receiving jobs in D.C. or Virginia in order to pay their bills. This has been an ongoing problem, with over 70% of Charles County residents working outside the county.
Building a Southern Maryland VA medical center will go a long way, in terms of providing veterans access to easily accessible and high-quality health care, creating economic development in the tri-county, and generating a sizeable amount of tax revenue that can be used to invest in much-needed economic development projects such as light rail, environmental projects and affordable housing.
— CARLOS CHILDS
The writer is a political science major at Arizona State University, state organizing director for Our Revolution Maryland and a community activist in Charles County. A Democrat, he has announced his candidacy for the Maryland House of Delegates to represent Charles County’s District 28. He can be reached on Facebook and on Twitter @CarlosChildsMD.