By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The large number of military veterans in southeastern Kentucky and their long drive for medical care has become an issue for state legislators.
Senator Ray S. Jones II of Pikeville (D) filed a resolution supporting the establishment of a Veterans’ hospital in southeastern Kentucky that would also serve veterans in the western Virginia area.
Currently, the Kentucky County Clerks Association is offering their help in getting petitions signed in support of a more local facility to serve the many aging veterans in the area.
The petition is available at both the Laurel County Clerk’s Office on the second floor of the Laurel County Courthouse as well as at the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office on South Broad Street. The petition simply asks for the name, address and phone number of the signee under the words: “Please sign the petition in support of a Veterans Administration Hospital in Kentucky’s Fifth Congressional District.”
The Fifth Congressional District includes Bell, Bath, Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Wayne, Whitley, and Wolfe counties and part of Bath County.
Currently, there are only two full-service veterans hospitals in the state. The Lexington VA Medical Center is located in Lexington and the Robley Rex VA Medical Center is located in Louisville.
Laurel County Clerk Dean Johnson said the need for a facility closer than Lexington or Louisville is imperative.
“The veterans, especially those from World War II, are getting older and it’s hard for them to make the trip to Lexington sometimes. We feel we need something closer than Lexington,” Johnson said. “The County Clerks help the veterans. Last year, through private donations, by selling birdhouses made out of license plates and the golf scramble, we raised $69,000 for the residents of veterans’ nursing homes in the state.”
Senator Jones was recently quoted in the Williamson Daily News as saying that some 34,000 veterans reside in southeastern Kentucky.
“The courage and sacrifices exemplified by our veterans require no less than our unwavering determination to ensure that they are able to easily utilize the benefits they have so bravely earned,” Jones said. “If the United States Department of Veterans Affairs would establish a VA Medical Center in southeastern Kentucky, it would greatly ease travel burdens of many veterans residing in southeastern Kentucky who turn to VA Medical Centers for their healthcare needs.”
Jones’ resolution is set to be considered during the 2013 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly. Sen. Johnny Ray Turner (D-Prestonsburg) is the primary co-sponsor of the resolution.