The Department of Veterans Affairs will open a new outpatient clinic for veterans in Southern Maryland next year, Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said Thursday.

The facility in Charlotte Hall is intended to serve the large veteran population in Southern Maryland, home to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Naval Support Facility Indian Head and other military installations.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer welcomed the announcement. He said the current VA outpatient clinic in Charlotte Hall is over capacity and "cannot fully meet the needs of our community."

Shinseki, who announced 13 clinics in nine states to open through 2015, called them "key to providing veterans better access to high-quality care closer to home."

"By reducing the distance veterans have to travel," he said, "we hope more veterans will benefit from the health care services they have earned through their service to our nation."

With 152 medical centers and more than 800 community-based outpatient clinics, the VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country. Officials estimate that the VA will provide health care to about 6.1 million patients in fiscal year 2012 and receive 80 million outpatient visits.

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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