Veterans plea for a VA Hospital in the Rio Grande Valley

Commander Jose Vazquez

For years, Veterans have been asking for a veterans hospital to be built in the Rio Grande Valley - a hospital with an emergency room open 24/7.

"We have been asking for a hospital since 1948 since the World War II|" Commander Jose Vazquez said. "We still don't have a hospital and that is the reason that we were so high in the list of no services, and appointments and waiting time."

Right now, veterans have a VA Clinic in McAllen and Harlingen.

However, recently a federal report came out which names Harlingen VA clinic as having the worst wait times in the nation.

The average wait time for new patients is 145 days.

"It TMs just unconscionable to think that someone would have to wait that long to get services," Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. said. "What happens is whatever illness they have it becomes worst and they wind up in the emergency room."

Both Commander Vazquez, a Vietnam veteran, and Senator Lucio agree in the need of a veterans hospital in the Valley.

"We will be at the top cause then San Antonio won TMt have so many appointments from us and we will have our own appointments," Vazquez said. "We won TMt have to wait so long; maybe even a week or two. That TMs the difference of live saving care a hospital can give us."

Senator Lucio k nows firsthand what it TMs like to have a loved one wait for months for an appointment and make that drive to San Antonio for treatment since that is the closest Veteran Hospital to the Rio Grande Valley.

"It was his dream to have this hospital, not only for himself but for his comrades," Senator Lucio talking about what his father wanted for the Rio Grande Valley before he passed away. "The Veterans of foreign wars, the Veterans of American legion heirs, all the people he knew of hundreds if not thousands buddies that he had, and he said someday they are going to need a full fledge Veterans hospital and I hope I live to see it."

Senator Lucio says now is the time for the Valley to move forward with a full service veterans hospital.

"One of the things that people ask me is, why has it taken so long for a veterans hospital?" Senator Lucio said. "Well it TMs over, the wait is over because if you look at all the veterans hospitals in the country, you will find a medical school right next to it and we have a medical school now."

Until the new medical school opens in 2015, Senator Lucio will fight to get lawmakers on board to build a hospital.

Until that happens, the officials in the Rio Grande Valley VA clinics are working on improving their services.

"We have a new team coming here (McAllen), a new team going to Harlingen plus a mid-level provider so that in itself is 15 more staff that we are looking at right now," Hugo Martinez, VA Public Affairs Officer, said. "But we also have 18 active recruitments for mental health and we are adding a psychologist to the clinic here in McAllen as well."

To help clinic administrators have extended its hours from 4:30 pm to 6 pm in the McAllen clinic and are taking appointments on Saturdays.

Martinez says that the most demanded services in the Rio Grande Valley are for audiology, ophthalmology and optometry.