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MINNEAPOLIS-The Department of Veterans Affairs has plans to add five new outpatient clinics and renovate of two of its existing medical facilities in Minnesota. In addition, Veterans Affairs may establish a new spinal cord injury unit in Minneapolis.

Also under consideration are collocating the St. Paul Veterans Benefits Administration office at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center; opening five new community based outpatient clinics in Bemidji, Redwood Falls, Rice Lake, Alexandria and Elk River; renovate facilities in Minneapolis and St. Cloud; and construct and convert space in Minneapolis and St. Cloud facilities.

“These changes will provide greater access to care for veterans,” says Anthony J. Principi, secretary of Veterans Affairs.

About 85,000 of Minnesota’s 446,000 veterans were treated last year in VA’s health care facilities, up from 63,000 in 2000. In 2003, VA spent $956 million in Minnesota, an increase from $725 million three years before.

Principi says about 80% of the health care provided by VA is outpatient care. He says the plan would allow the department to provide more of the outpatient care veterans want and use, while building upon VA’s expertise in providing highly specialized inpatient care.

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