Vets want answers about future of VA clinic

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- The Clock is ticking for the VA Clinic in St. Johns County.

It needs to find a new facility because the current building has been sold.

Local veterans fear the VA is dragging its feet and they will not have a clinic to go to come next spring.

The VA clinic in St. Johns County is currently located at the Health and Human Services facility in St. Augustine on U.S. 1

St. Johns County sold the property to Lowe's Hardware three years ago.

All of the offices inside are moving to a new building, except for the VA clinic, and no one locally really knows where the VA clinic is going.

Bill Dudley served in the US Air Force, and he uses the VA Clinic in St. Augustine.

"I was there this morning in fact," Dudley said Wednesday.

He is also the chairman of the Veterans Council in St. Johns County. He and other veterans are concerned about what's going to happen to the VA clinic in St. Johns County which has 5,000 patients.

When the county sold the property to Lowe's in 2011, the VA chose not to move into the county's new building (which is under construction). County Administrator Jerry Cameron said the VA gave various reasons "ranging from that there were no restaurants in the area to there was no transportation. None of those things are correct."

Dudley said, "They really came across more as excuses instead of reasons." He also said, "It's puzzling as to why they would not accept the county of the county."

The current building has to be vacated by March, Cameron said, or the VA will have to pay Lowe's $53,000 a month.

"We don't know where they're going to locate so we're very concerned," Dudley noted.

The county administrator says the V-A has put out a proposal to build a facility somewhere, but there will not be time to build a facility before the existing building has to be vacated."

"Right now, the veterans don't know if they're going to have an interruption in there services," Dudley said.

If there is an interruption, veterans may have to drive to Jacksonville or Gainesville for medical care.

First Coast News has asked the Dept. of Veterans Affairs for information about the VA clinic, but there's been no response.

Our news partner, the St. Augustine Record reports that a spokesperson for the Veterans Administration said that local veterans will not have an interruption of services.

"But those are assurances," Dudley noted, "that we haven't seen in terms of, if it's going to be located hereā€¦ where is it going to be located?"

Dudley added that this uncertainty could have been avoided if the VA had communicated its plans to the people who've risked their lives for their country and who need "good health care."

There is a public meeting about this topic scheduled for Thursday night at the Elks Lodge in St. Augustine. Dudley said the Deputy Director of the VA in Florida will be there.


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