A newly formed veterans group went to Columbus Council seeking support for a nursing home and hospital for disabled veterans.
Michael Burks, president of Chapter 114 of the Retired Enlisted Veterans Hospital Association, told the 10-member council on July 25 that veterans shouldn’t have to drive to Tuskegee or Montgomery, Ala., from Columbus for services. He presented a petition seeking support for a veterans hospital and nursing home. Many veterans get services now from the Central Alabama Veterans Services but this is Georgia, Burks said.
Burks said he has visited cities in Colorado, Pennsylvania and even Temple, Texas but no services are in Columbus. “I believe we can get this done if we all work together,” he said.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said the city has been working for a long time to get a veterans hospital but hasn’t been successful. The city has gotten close a couple of times, but keeps coming at it from a different way.
Charles Smith, a veteran who retired in 2016 after 20 years of service, said he spends his own money to keep from driving to Tuskegee or Montgomery.
“I don’t use the VA now, because I’m not going to drive out there to do it,” he said.
Smith said he is still getting treatment for a back problem but he goes to the hospital here and pays out of his pocket with Tri-Care.
“I could have VA do it, but I’m not driving to Tuskegee or Montgomery to have the doctor do it,” he said. “I live paycheck to paycheck.”
Councilor Jerry “Pops” Barnes, a retired disabled Army veteran, said he has to drive to Montgomery for treatment. “We should not have to drive,” he said. “So many widows and wives have to drive all way to Tuskegee or to Montgomery whose husbands are hospitalized. That should not be.”
Barnes said Columbus should have had a facility a long time ago. He urged veterans to get registered so veteran officials will know the need in the area. “We do have the population here,” he said.