The possibility of locating a 68-bed Veterans Affairs home hinges on just a few remaining steps, said local enthusiast Carolyn McLean.
Most importantly, McLean needs the names and addresses of all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces to verify the number of those living in the area. Secondly, she needs their feedback as to whether they would use such a home and if they would use the services of a VA clinic if it were stationed in Iola.
Currently, Fort Scott, Chanute and Garnett all have VA clinics. The only nursing homes specifically for veterans are in Winfield and Dodge City. Most states have five veterans homes, McLean said.
McLean and VA representatives will be out in full force Oct. 15 during Farm-City Days to gather the needed information as well as assist veterans and their families to obtain VA benefits.
At issue is a disparity of the count of how many veterans reside in southeast Kansas and whether a demand exists for an extended-stay home or clinic.
“The state says we have one number, while the federal government says we have a much larger count,” McLean said.
According to state enrollment, there are 2,283 veterans among Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Coffey, Neosho and Woodson counties, McLean said.
Federal statistics list 5,578 veterans for the same area, she said. Add in Crawford, Montgomery, Labette, Cherokee and Linn counties — additional counties that would use the nursing home — and the number jumps to 17,653.
One reason McLean is such an advocate of the VA home is the jobs it would bring to the area.
“It’s a $20-million facility that would create 70 jobs,” she said.
Funding for the home is a 35/65 percent split between the state and federal government. McLean said Gov. Sam Brownback has agreed to commit to its funding.
“We almost have the application completed,” McLean said of the arduous task. It’s unknown when to expect approval of the project, she said.
A VA CLINIC is also in the works, though not being pursued as aggressively.
The idea is that the clinic would operate in a new medical arts building on the grounds of Allen County’s new hospital.
Until then, a mobile unit with two examination rooms and a waiting room, could be parked near the hospital to attend to veterans.
In Chanute and Garnett, the VA clinics rent space in their hospitals. In Fort Scott, the clinic is in a former doctor’s office.
If the clinic and nursing home come to pass, McLean envisions Iola as “the mecca of VA health care,” she said.
She sees both as being “feeders” to Allen County Hospital.
VETERANS are encouraged to give McLean their opinions about either the veterans home or the VA clinic by calling her at 620-365-5577.
At Farm-City Days they should bring their discharge papers to check eligibility for possible enrollment for VA health care.