Congress approves seven new VA facilities in Florida

Florida will get seven new veterans' facilities, including in Tampa and Lakeland, making care easier to receive.

Late Wednesday night, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to approve seven new VA facilities in Florida.

The new Florida facilities will be located in Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Ocala, Tampa, Lakeland and two in Gainesville.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) has been in support of this legislation.

“We have a duty to care for the brave men and women who have served in our nation’s military,” Nelson said in a press release. “Getting these seven new VA clinics opened here in Florida will make it easier for some of our veterans to access the care that they need.”

Now, the legislation needs the president’s signature.

If approved, Tampa’s five outpatient mental health clinics will be turned into a 114,000-square-foot facility.

Veterans will be able to get everything from PTSD treatment to substance abuse done under one roof, instead of traveling to different facilities, like veteran Randy Levell.

“This is just awesome,” says Levell.

Even though the VA provides transportation to these veterans, Levell says it will alleviate some of that travel burden.

Levell has remained in good spirits, even after losing his home in a house fire. He says the VA has treated him well.

“We have to support it to the end. Step by step, says Levell. “Sen. Bill Nelson making the announcement last night. We're getting closer things are being done. I'm ecstatic.”

David VanMeter is the Deputy Director for James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital.

He says they've been seeing an increase in patients in the last few years, so if this is approved by the president, it will allow them more services to area veterans.

“I think they love the care they see here,” says VanMeter. “Now, that the care is closer to their homes and there is more of it. I think it's a win-win, both for our organization and the veterans that we serve.”

The VA Clinic in Lakeland is also getting a major upgrade.

Right now, the clinic on South Pipkin Road is using a 20,000-square-foot space between two buildings.

But the new place they are looking at will be 93,000 square feet, making space for primary care and other support services.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there were 1,533,306 veterans in Florida- 1,378,486 male veterans and 154,820 female veterans, in 2016.

Florida has the third largest population of vets in the nation, following California (No. 1) and Texas.

 

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