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Veterans cite Monroeville clinic’s convenience

Monroeville Ribbon Cutting

Veterans say VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s (VAPHS’s) new Monroeville VA Outpatient Clinic offers a more convenient option than traveling into Pittsburgh’s traffic-heavy Oakland neighborhood for care.

“It’s great,” said Navy Veteran Phillip Morrison, of nearby Plum Borough. “It’s easier for me to get to, than going to Oakland, and there’s plenty of parking.”

Morrison visited the clinic the morning of Sept. 1, shortly before municipal, county, state and federal elected officials joined VA staff for the ribbon-cutting for the state-of-the-art, 67,359 square-foot facility.

VAPHS Deputy Director Prachi Asher said the clinic represents a “new era of health care for Veterans in Monroeville” and surrounding communities.

“With this new treatment space, we will provide more service and better service to our nation’s heroes,” Asher said during the ribbon-cutting. “More efficient and effective treatment can be provided in space designed to meet modern service delivery modalities and standards of care. I know that this outpatient clinic will be a testament to that.”

Located at 421 Mall Circle Drive at Monroeville Mall, the clinic opened to patients on July 31. It provides eligible Veterans with integrated primary and mental health care, along with specialty and diagnostic services such as rehabilitation, optometry, imaging, lab, acupuncture, oncology and more.

The clinic is staffed by VAPHS employees and is open for appointments from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, except federal holidays. It has 500 parking spaces, including 50 handicap spots, and a Pittsburgh Regional Transit bus stop. It can serve approximately 400 Veterans daily.

VAPHS opened the clinic in response to Veterans who complained of their frustration with its University Drive campus’s parking garage and Oakland traffic. Some 181,000 Veterans are located within easy commuting distance of the Monroeville clinic.

American Legion Gold Star Post 820 Commander Regis Dugan said the location of the new clinic is ideal for many Veterans who call Allegheny County’s southwestern suburbs home.

“Not having to drive to Pittsburgh is the best part about it,” said Dugan, a Navy Veteran who attended the ribbon-cutting with several fellow Legionnaires.

Also in attendance was Ethel Parham, widow of the late Henry Parham. Federal legislation is pending to name the clinic for Henry Parham, a Wilkinsburg man who served with the Army’s 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion.

The 320th was the only Black unit, and the only balloon battalion, to land on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion. Henry Parham, who received the French Legion of Honor in 2013, died in 2021 at the age of 99. He was the last surviving Black combat Veteran who took part in the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944.

Henry Parham and his wife were longtime VAPHS volunteers, helping with bingo games, cookouts and field trips for Veteran patients at VAPHS’s former Highland Drive campus and its University Drive campus.

Ethel Parham said volunteering came naturally for the couple, who were married for 47 years. With her 40 years of service and his 22, the couple volunteered at VAPHS for a combined 62 years.

“It was nice because the VA patients could relate to (Henry), especially the younger guys when they came back from Vietnam,” said Ethel Parham, who now calls Blawnox home. “We enjoyed volunteering because the Veterans needed somebody to talk to.”

Ethel Parham said she is surprised and honored that Congress is considering renaming the clinic for Henry Parham. She called it a “great honor and testament” to his life and sacrifices, both on and off Omaha Beach.

A World War II draftee, Henry Parham and his all-Black unit of 700 soldiers dodged enemy rifle fire while hoisting balloons 2,000 feet over the beachhead to prevent aircraft from strafing ground troops during the D-Day invasion. They also endured segregation.

“There was a lot of adversity, and some people weren’t kind,” Ethel Parham said. “But he made it. He survived.”

VA worked with the General Services Administration to build the clinic, part of a national effort between the two federal agencies to streamline delivery of such outpatient clinics to communities with growing Veteran populations.

“We’re honored to partner with the VA to deliver this facility that will provide critical outpatient services to Veterans, improve access to care and reduce Veterans’ drive times,” said Tom Lyman, deputy regional commissioner for GSA’s Mid-Atlantic Region Public Buildings Service, at the ribbon-cutting.

Congress included funding for the clinic in the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017. GSA awarded a $92 million build-to-suit lease in April 2021, and construction began in October 2021.

Guests who attended the ribbon-cutting included U.S. Reps. Chris Deluzio and Summer Lee, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Monroeville Mayor Dr. Nicholas Gresock, Summit Smith Vice President of Development Sean Roberts, VA Deputy Under Secretary for Health Dr. Steven L. Lieberman, VA’s Executive Director for the Office of Construction and Facilities Management Michael D. Brennan, and VISN 4 Network Director Timothy W. Liezert.

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