Sen. Salazar to meet with vets in Craig


Local veterans' dreams of having a medical clinic in Northwest Colorado may be coming closer to reality.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Denver, will host a meeting May 5 at Shadow Mountain Clubhouse in Craig to discuss building a veteran clinic in Craig.

Salazar's brother, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, also might attend the meeting, which is open to the public and starts at 11 a.m.

Local veteran Charley Watkins has been trying to get a veterans clinic built in Craig for the past six years.

Without a clinic, Northwest Colorado veterans drive to the Veterans' Affairs Hospital in Grand Junction.

Including driving time and time spent at the hospital, the trip to Grand Junction often takes veterans an entire day.

Watkins testified at a hearing before Sen. Salazar last year in Grand Junction about the need for a clinic in the region.

Next week's meeting shows that Watkins' efforts are starting to make some headway, he said.

"At least I have people's attention," Watkins said.

Cody Wertz, a spokesman for Salazar, said the senator plans to discuss the feasibility of opening a community-based outpatient clinic in the region and other options for providing care to veterans.

There are 11 outpatient clinics administered by Veterans' Affairs in Colorado, but none of them is in Northwest Colorado.

"The idea is to move forward on how best to deliver health care to the veteran population in Northwest Colorado," Wertz said.

Since the hearings in Grand Junction last year, getting health care for rural veterans has been a top priority for Salazar, Wertz said.

Northwest Colorado is a region of particular need, Wertz said.

Representatives from Veterans' Affairs and the American Legion in Craig also are expected to attend, Wertz said.

A spokeswoman from John Salazar's office didn't return calls for comment Thursday.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or

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