January 29, 2023

New Montana VA clinic named after Doolittle Raid Veteran

Missoula-area Veterans will now receive care in the new, state-of-the-art David J. Thatcher VA Clinic. Montana VA held a grand opening ceremony on January 28 and the first day of patient care will be February 1.

The clinic is named in honor of Montanan and Army Air Corps tail gunner David J. Thatcher who was part of the legendary Doolittle Raid.

The nine-million-dollar clinic is three times larger than its former Palmer Street location. The clinic is 60,000 square feet and spans eight acres. It will be able to serve up to 9,000 Veterans.

“This beautiful, state-of-the-art clinic will give our Veterans the care they truly deserve and offers the Montana VA what we really want, more opportunities to fulfill our solemn commitment to care for those injured in our nation’s defense,” said Executive Director Dr. Judy Hayman. “Our goal is that every Veteran who walks through these doors finds strength, courage, health and healing in this clinic.”

Thatcher then and now

Caregivers co-located in “teamwork zone”

Patients meet multiple providers in single appointment room

The new clinic is in one fully connected space and is designed around VA’s integrated PACT (Patient Align Care Team) model. In the clinic, Veterans will meet with multiple providers based out of a single appointment room. This optimizes a patient’s face-to-face time with caregivers who are centrally co-located in a “teamwork zone” and are a door away. Instead of a Veteran going to each provider, each provider comes to the Veteran.

The PACT model integrates and coordinates Veteran’s care with clinical services such as social workers, dietitians, pharmacists, mental health practitioners and others. This collaboration enhances real-time decision making, streamlines communications, and brings care and services directly to the Veteran.

Benefits offices also on site

Veterans will also have access to new and expanded services, such as physical therapy, general radiology, tele-retinal and tele-audiology services, and laboratory services. The clinic includes endocrinology, cardiology, prosthetics, sleep medicine, support for homeless Veterans and home-based primary care.

Dedicated meeting spaces will help Veterans connect to Peer Support groups and other classes including healthy living and PTSD support. In addition, Veterans may access support for disability compensation claims, pension information, and education and employment benefits at the on-site Veterans Benefit Administration offices.

Heroic actions portrayed in movie “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo”

David J. Thatcher was an outstanding Montanan and Army Air Corps Veteran. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he volunteered to serve as a tail gunner for a high-risk mission to attack targets deep within Japanese-controlled territory. This counterattack is known to history as the Doolittle Raid.

After finishing the April 1942 bombing mission and running low on fuel, Staff Sergeant Thatcher’s aircraft crash-landed near the coast of China. Thatcher was instrumental in caring for his seriously injured group and in helping them reach safety. For his actions, he was awarded the Silver Star.

The actor Robert Walker portrayed Thatcher on the silver screen in “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.”

After the war, Thatcher embarked on a career with the Postal Service and married his sweetheart, Dawn. Their marriage spanned seven decades until he died in June 2016 at age 94. Dawn Thatcher passed away in May 2020.

Montana VA serves over 47,000 enrolled Veterans across Montana – roughly 147,000 square miles. Veterans are cared for by 1,400 Montana VA staff at 18 sites of care across the state. One third of Montana VA employees are Veterans.

New Montana VA clinic named after Doolittle Raid Veteran