EXCLUSIVE: Columbus Veterans Affairs Clinic construction delayed

EXCLUSIVE: Columbus Veterans Affairs Clinic construction delayed

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The new veterans affairs clinic coming to Columbus was originally expected to open in 2021, but now the construction is being delayed at least 8 more months.

Right now, the nearest Veterans Affairs Clinic is 50 miles away in Tuskegee, Alabama. Many locals say the Fountain City desperately needs it’s own clinic.

A building was chosen last year as the location for the Columbus Clinic, but now the contractor set to do the construction has to be replaced.

“It’s like dangling the carrot in front of our nose," one army veteran said. "and then they snatched it back all of the sudden.”

This local army veteran is responding to a letter that he received in the mail Monday evening. The letter states the business awarded construction bids for both the Cobb County and Columbus Georgia Veterans Affairs Clinics have been terminated and that now the Department of Veterans Affairs must find a new developer.

“I think the biggest thing is going to be the morale,” the veteran said. “So many veterans were looking forward to this. It’s really difficult when you have to run all over the place to get the care that you need.”

“It is a far drive to go to Tuskegee to get medical coverage," another veteran, Lionel Haynes, said, "but it is medical coverage.”

The V.A. anticipates it’ll take 8 to 12 months to find a new contractor. For now, Veterans can continue driving to Tuskegee or Montgomery for their services, but for some the concern has to do with more than just miles.

“Personally I had to wait three months just to get an eye exam," a veteran said, "and I’ve been waiting over six months now to get into a pain management center.”

Pushing back the construction will inevitably push back the opening date of the clinic, but Haynes said it’s better late than never.

“The military continues to grow,” Haynes said. "and Columbus is continuing to grow. It’s something much needed, it should have been here but like I said delayed but not denied.”

The Small Business Administration said the award was cancelled after the contractor earned more than $38.5 million in a single year, disqualifying them from being a small business.

In a statement on the matter the VA wrote:

This decision by the Small Business Administration means that VA must find a different contractor to build the replacement Columbus Community Based Outpatient Clinic. In the meantime, there will be no impact to patient care, as Columbus-area Veterans will continue to be served by the Columbus Community Based Outpatient Clinic located at 1310 13th Avenue, Columbus, GA 31905 and the Ft. Benning VA Clinic located at 6635 Bass Road, Bldg. 9214, Fort Benning, GA 31905.

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