They fought for their country and now they expect to get the health care they need. But the new Va mobile health clinic is, in some ways, a work in progress.
Veterans cannot swing by and get a checkup the way one might grab a fast food burger. But veterans see it as a big plus and are anxious to get medical care closer to home.
Here amid others at Touisant Trailer Park south of Lake Charles, Vietnam veteran Larry Thibodeaux makes his home. Right next to his front door is a sign he made saying it's a drug free zone. Thibodeaux says drugs are a problem in the neighborhood and that he wants no part of it. "This whole neighborhood's a problem as far as drugs right now. Hopefully, they'll see my little sign and stay away from me. I don't want any drugs in my neighborhood. They got a lot of kids in this neighborhood,"said Thibodeaux.
Thibodeaux no longer drives and says it's been very difficult to get to Jennings for V.A. Medical care. "For me to go to Jennings it costs me sixty bucks. That's paying somebody to run me to Jennings and back. That's their time, their vehicle, their gas. I pay for their gas and their time and I ain' got sixty bucks to spare," said Thibodeaux.
It was so important to him to make it to the new mobile clinic, that he walked nearly five miles to get there. "It took me two bottles of cold water to get there and it was a nice walk except for the heat. I thank God we have a VA clinic. I've been praying for one for a while. So, it's here," said Thibodeaux.
However, appointments must be scheduled. Walk in clients are able to get information, but cannot see a doctor on the spot.
The first client to see the doctor at the new clinic was 80 year old Otray Woods who served in Korea. "Veterans are aging. We're all getting older, traveling out of town is becoming more and more difficult. I had been going to Beaumont, but frankly, I quit a few years back." said Woods.
VA officials admit they won't be able to accommodate everyone until there's permanent facility to handle more medical teams, but Carla Holland says they will help local veterans all they can. "Any veteran who has special needs or special requirements that make commuting back and forth to Jennings difficult, we are certainly going to do everything we can to get them seen or transferred to this clinic. The veterans who are showing up are incredible. They are just so thrilled to have services in the area and they have been incredibly patient," said Holland.
The clinic is south on Fifth avenue where the old workforce development office used to be. Workforce development has been moved to 2424 Third Street.
The VA staffed clinic is open from 11 am to 7:30 PM on Mondays; from 8 in the morning until 4:30 p-m Tuesday through Thursday; and from 7 am to 3:30 p.m. on Fridays.
For more information call area code 337-515-1810.