Veterans ask VA secretary to consider different location for clinic in Columbus

Veterans ask VA secretary to consider different location for clinic in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The back-and-forth debate about where a new Columbus VA clinic will be built continues with veterans asking leaders to consider a different space.

The building is supposed to be built on the corner of River Road and Mobley Roads. Instead of new construction, some veterans want the clinic to go to an existing building on Comer Avenue so people can start receiving services quicker.

Estimates report more than 20,000 veterans live in the greater Columbus area, yet many travel to Tuskegee or Montgomery for medical care.

“The regulation for the VA says that a clinic is supposed to be put where a majority of the minority is at. Yes, we serve 10 counties, but the majority is in South Columbus,” Pat Liddell said.

The veterans are frustrated. They said not one of their veterans organizations were consulted for this project.

“They’re supposed to include stakeholders and I haven’t found anyone here yet who I would consider a stakeholder who had a clue why that decision was made,” said veteran and city councilor, John House said.

This group is asking the secretary of veterans affairs, Robert Wilkie, to consider an existing building which could serve veterans within 30 days instead of waiting until January 2022 when the current project deadline is.

The old health department building on Comer Avenue already has exam rooms, a pharmacy, and large areas that could easily be transformed.

Retired Lt. Col. Sam Nelson said there was no transparency in this project, no voices were sought out, and the VA did not even make an announcement about the project. The announcement came from the builder. The goal now is to make enough noise to impact change with national leaders.

“Congressman Bishop, by the way he’s on our side, and he wasn’t consulted either and he’s on the committee,” Nelson said.

These veterans are concerned that someone is benefiting financially from the clinic being built where it is. They’ve even requested details through the Freedom of Information Act to find out who is.

Congressman Sanford Bishop sent a letter to Secretary Wilkie in June asking him to consider the location on Comer Avenue, citing the location is better because of proximity to other medical offices and because the space is already ready and officials could set up shop very quickly.

VA Public Affairs released the following statement:

“VA Southeast Network (VISN 7) worked diligently to bring a new state-of-the-art clinic to the Columbus area to help meet the important health care needs of local Veterans. The new clinic location will enable VA to provide convenient and easily accessible services in a safe environment for years to come.”

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