Judy Cawthra said both she and her husband, Art — a combat veteran of the Vietnam War — are looking forward to the day the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs opens its proposed clinic in Joplin.
The Cawthras, both in their 60s, live in Joplin. Judy Cawthra said she usually goes with her husband to his appointments at VA clinics in Mount Vernon or Fayetteville, Ark., and sometimes drives home from the appointments.
She said her husband served in Vietnam in 1970-71. He has some hearing loss from his time there.
Judy Cawthra said her husband is happy with the VA and his doctors, but she said he has to miss at least a half-day of work to travel to and from an appointment. She said it’s a hassle.
“It would be nice to have one right here in town,” she said.
A Joplin clinic is, in fact, in a VA building plan, tentatively slated for 2016. The plan for a Joplin clinic includes a staff of about 40 with the capability of serving around 9,000 veterans a year. The VA anticipates renting a space in Joplin for $580,000 annually, but no location has been identified.
Wanda Shull, a spokeswoman for the VA in Fayetteville, said the plan for the Joplin clinic is still tentative.
“That is a project that we have requested, but it has not been announced yet by the secretary (of veterans affairs),” Shull said. “That’s part of our process. If that becomes approved, it will be announced. Once that happens, the ball will start rolling. It’s still very much in the plan.”
Shull said the 2016 date isn’t firm, either.
The plan for a VA clinic in Springfield is further along, but its opening date, originally scheduled for next year, has been moved back to 2016. The VA plans to close its Mount Vernon clinic when the Springfield clinic opens. Shull said the VA’s office of real property has begun a site selection phase in Springfield.
“When that is determined, we’ll have a better idea about a timeline,” Shull said about a clinic location in Springfield.
The Springfield proposal is for a 68,000-square-foot building that would serve 22,000 veterans a year. The VA plans to lease a space for $1 million a year.
The Mount Vernon clinic serves 17,000 veterans annually.
KEITH BEARDSLEE, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo., said Congress has appropriated funds for the Springfield VA clinic but not yet for the Joplin VA clinic.