GARLAND, Texas - North Texas has a large veteran population that's growing, and with that comes the need to expand VA services.
That's why both Republican and Democratic representatives in Congress want to open a new VA clinic. They say they have the perfect place that comes with little cost.
Parts of the old Baylor Hospital building in Garland are still in use, but a large part of it currently stands empty. The hope is that by turning the empty part of the hospital into a VA clinic, it can serve tens of thousands more veterans in North Texas.
It may be July, but hockey is always on Michael Robinson’s mind. He plays for the Dallas Warriors, a hockey team made up of veterans.
“They are kind of the ones that spotted it for me,” he said.
Robinson says his teammates were the ones to notice some triggers for his PTSD and told him to go the VA.
“I didn’t want to go to the VA because I didn’t want to wait,” he said. “The whole thing with crowds. Being on the boat. Singled out. Small confided. That’s how the VA is. Tons of people trying to be seen.”
The North Texas Veterans Affairs System serves 33 counties. It’s the second largest in the nation and much of the care is centered at the massive VA facility in the East Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas.
“I know when I go here, I’m going to be there 6 or 7 hours,” he said.
Congressman Colin Allred, who represents parts of Garland, and both Republican and Democratic congressional colleagues from North Texas recently sent a letter to the VA secretary. It said the recently-closed Baylor Hospital in Garland can be donated and retrofitted as a VA clinic.
“We have to expand our capacity to drive down wait times and take care of those who took care of us,” Allred said.
Republican Congressman Van Taylor, who represents Collin County, also signed the letter. He sent a statement saying in part: “Even with the opening of the Plano VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic in 2016, many TX03 veterans must still drive all the way to South Dallas to receive certain critical health care services they depend upon. Not only is this unacceptable, it’s not the most cost-effective method to deliver the quality care they deserve.”
Robinson lives in Plano, and he says more resources would be a big help.
“DFW is growing by the minute,” he said. “So having another place for veterans to go, be seen, be heard and not having the wait; that’s the biggest beef with veterans.”