Veterans concerned about Massena VA clinic’s closure

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 4:42 PM EDT
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MASSENA, New York (WWNY) - Many veterans are up in arms because the Massena VA clinic will close. A new one, with a new health provider, will open in Potsdam.

Veterans from a wide area come for care - Akwesasne, Fort Covington, Massena - the VA clinic at the St. Lawrence Centre Mall. The Veterans Administration says the clinic will close at the end of October.

“It was kind of kept secret. Hush, hush,” said Fred Cockayne, DAV Chapter 171 commander. “They just made the move, made the change, and sent us a letter saying it was going to be a smooth transition.”

The VA will end its contract with Sterling Medical for running the Massena clinic. Another company, STG International, won a bid to open one in Potsdam. Six years ago the clinic moved from Massena Hospital to the mall.

“Every time there’s a move, like they call it a transition, and they tell us all it’s going to be a smooth transition – no bumps in the road. Well it doesn’t work that way,” said Cockayne.

Changes in staff inevitably come with such moves. Cockayne says that’s the hardest part for vets, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“They’ve laid their heart out. They’ve laid their story out to this therapist...and the first thing the new therapist wants to know is” tell me what happened. Tell me your story. They don’t want to do that,” said Cockayne.

STG International says it will offer jobs to Massena VA clinic staff.

It issued a statement reading in part: “STGi is proud to have been selected to partner with the Syracuse VAMC and bring state of the art facilities to the Veterans in St. Lawrence County and the surrounding communities.”

The new clinic will be in Potsdam Plaza. It will go in a former drug store where asbestos cleanup was just completed. STG International hopes to have it open for service on November 1.

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