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By DAMON LAWRENCE
Area veterans soon may not have to travel as far for their health-care needs.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans late last week to open a new outpatient clinic in Roane County in 2008.
“VA is dedicated to providing the best in health care to the men and women who have served this nation in uniform,” U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs James B. Peake was quoted in a press release.
“These new clinics will bring that care closer to veterans who have earned it through their service.”
Getting a clinic for Roane County has been in the works for several years, former County Mayor Ken Yager said.
“This is wonderful news,” Yager said. “Right now, unless it’s an emergency, our veterans have to wait up to 18 months to get an appointment for a nonemergency medical matter. And if you’re a World War II or Korean vet, you might not have 18 months to wait.”
A search on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Web site shows that the closest facilities right now are in Knoxville.
Rockwood resident Charlie Parker is a World War II veteran. He said having a VA clinic in Roane County is an “A-plus” for veterans in the region.
“Everywhere you turn to, every clinic you talk to say they have anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 in line waiting to get in the system,” Parker said. “I’m just as proud as I can be because it should really help the veterans living in the area.”
In all, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced plans to open 14 new clinics in seven different states.
Six of the new facilities will be in Tennessee. Campbell and Sevier counties in East Tennessee also made the cut.
U.S. Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, along with U.S. Congressman Lincoln Davis all praised the move.
The services, exact locations and opening dates for the new clinics have not yet been determined, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Yager said a prior county commission voted to reserve space for a VA clinic in the building that currently houses the Roane County Health Department.