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Veterans speak out at meeting; officials say clinic will do all it can

Town hall meeting about veterans health concerns held at Florence County Library Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Town hall meeting about veterans health concerns held at Florence County Library Tuesday, January 31, 2017 (Florence) Morning News

A panel of administrators from the Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Clinic in Columbia held a town hall meeting Tuesday morning at the Florence County Library to inform local veterans about future changes and to address any questions and concerns they may have.

More than 50 Florence veterans and civilians attended the town hall meeting listen to the panel of VA administrators and voice their opinions. The crowd of passionate veterans didn’t hesitate to talk about the issues when they had a chance.

“It takes 90 days to get an appointment,” one veteran said to the panel. “Nobody gets any help at the VA.”

The man was just one of many who weren’t afraid to speak up about certain issues. Medical Center director David Omura took the podium first and reassured the crowd that he and his fellow new staff members are doing all they can to help all veterans who need it.

“We’re very fortunate to have new leadership to ensure that our veterans are receiving the best care possible,” Omura said. ““The future is very bright for the organization.”

While most of the veterans in the room disagreed, Omura cited statistics, saying 92 percent of veterans who needed an appointment with the VA in the last year were able to be seen within 30 days or less. Omura also addressed the future growth of the Dorn VA, specifically in the Florence area, saying it has been approved to build new clinics in Florence as well as in Orangeburg, Sumter and Rock Hill.

“You’re not going to see many VAs that are growing more aggressively than the Dorn VA,” Omura said. “We need to significantly expand this area. We are all very thoughtful with taxpayer dollars and we want to make sure we get you exactly what we need.”

Associate director Jeff Soots also spoke to the crowd of veterans about the issue of the Florence clinic size. Not only has it been approved to build a new clinic in Florence, but Soots said it is also planning on hiring more than 150 additional frontline staff to better assist VA members.

With more than 6,700 veterans enrolled in the Florence area VA system, Soots and the rest of the team at the Dorn VA said they know growth is imminent and they will be doing everything they can to help Florence-area veterans get the help they deserve.

“I know your clinic is not big enough; we’re going to fix that,” Soots said. “You have a truly committed leadership team that is here to help you. We will dedicate the resources necessary to provide you the best care we possibly can.”

“We want to continue to find ways in which we can get better to serve our veterans,” Omura said. “We only want people on the Dorn team that are 100 percent committed to our veterans.”

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