Collin County to get new VA clinicMarty Nell, a Casey Joyce Post 4380 commander in Plano, is in need of dental work. However, the former Marine said he does not expect to be seen by a dentist until at least February. For Nell, the experience can be summed into one word: frustrating.

“I think the biggest thing about the [Veterans Affairs] is being able to get into it. It’s not like going to make an appointment with your doctor,” he said. “At the VA you call to make an appointment, and it’s 30 days—at least 30 days—before you can get in.”

Nell is one of many veterans throughout Collin County who travel to the Dallas VA Medical Center for treatment. Many veterans have expressed concern over travel expenses and extended appointment wait times.

To help offset the volume of patients at the Dallas center and other area facilities, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced in October the location for its new community-based outpatient clinic in Plano.

U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano, advocated for the center, which will be located in vacant office space at 3804 W. 15th St. across from the Medical Center of Plano. The clinic is expected to open in May and will serve veterans in Collin and surrounding counties.

“I’ve been working on getting a local VA clinic in Collin County for several years now, and the new Plano VA clinic is finally becoming reality for two big reasons,” Johnson said. “First, there is a very real need in the community for a conveniently located veterans clinic. Second, this is becoming a reality because of the hard work and determination from local champions [and] folks like Jeff Milligan, VA North Texas Health Care System director.”

Chuck Wright, a Frisco resident and former Marine, said veterans in Frisco will benefit from the new center.

“For Frisco veterans [the new VA clinic] is going to be a huge convenience because it will now be closer than the Park & Ride for DART that veterans would use to just get to the VA hospital in south Dallas,” he said.

The clinic is expected to provide primary care, mental health care, telemedicine and X-ray services. The VA expects the clinic will serve nearly 6,000 veterans each year and will be staffed by at least five physicians, five registered nurses and five licensed vocational nurses, as well as a phlebotomist, pharmacist and social workers. The workload will be closely monitored each year to identify the need for further expansion of specialty care services, according to the VA.

The VA North Texas Health Care System is the federal department’s second-largest health care system. Currently, Collin County veterans must travel to the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center in Bonham, the Denton clinic or the Dallas medical center for specialized health treatment.

“There are a lot of transportation issues with veterans in Collin County who have to drive to Dallas, Bonham and Denton [for treatment],” said Zach Migura, an appointed official for Collin County Veteran Services. “The primary care is good, and I think they’ll have some mental health [services], but that’s not full-service.”

Migura said the number of veterans the county serves has increased in recent years because of the area’s growth as well as the fact that more Vietnam veterans are filing for health benefits through the VA.

“Our goal is to make the whole process as efficient as possible,” Migura said. “We try to do everything, but sometimes just [helping veterans] understand their benefits is the most difficult.”

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