South Carolina

Sen. Graham: VA nursing home will happen in Florence

Florence County Council Chairman Kent Caudle (left), S.C. Senate President Pro-tempore Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. (center) and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham cut the ribbon during the grand opening ceremony of Florence County’s new V.A. Administration building on National Cemetery Road Monday.
Florence County Council Chairman Kent Caudle (left), S.C. Senate President Pro-tempore Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. (center) and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham cut the ribbon during the grand opening ceremony of Florence County’s new V.A. Administration building on National Cemetery Road Monday.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says Florence will get the major Veteran Affairs facility that’s been talked about locally for months.

Graham was in Florence on Monday for the grand opening ceremony of the county’s new VA Administration Building, and he told the Morning News a new VA nursing home is in the works with support in Washington, D.C.

“There will be one coming to Florence,” he said. “There’s a real big demand and a short supply, and a VA nursing facility is a lot less expensive for our veterans. Of all the things lacking in the VA, quality nursing homes are at the top. Many of them, like the one in my hometown, have a waiting list a mile long. The president is committed to expanding the VA nursing home footprint.”

Officials close to the project, who wished to remain unnamed, have said the Florence facility is expected to take up approximately 20 acres, contain more than 100 beds, bring roughly 110 new VA staff members and come with a price tag of $35 million to $40 million.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh K. Leatherman Sr. of Florence first spoke of the project last November, saying he was working to get one facility in Florence and another in the Upstate, as opposed to a larger facility in Columbia.

Though details were not provided, Leatherman said Monday that land acquisition in Florence is being finalized on National Cemetery Road near the Florence Stockade.

“We’re urging the property owners to finalize everything, and then we’ll be ready to go,” he said. “There are a lot of veterans in the Pee Dee, and many of them don’t have the means to drive across the state, and neither do many of their families. It’s more beneficial to the people of this state to have multiple facilities.”

No time frame was given for when construction could begin on the facility.

Graham said spending more money on veteran’s care will pay off in the long run with veterans of Vietnam aging and veterans of wars in the Middle East not far behind.

“The VA and the defense department is just a small percentage of overall spending," Graham said. "About 74 percent of government spending is Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs. The VA isn’t what’s putting us in debt; it’s the unlimited growth of entitlements.”

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