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VA Clinic to host informational fair for returning vets

By Staff | Sep 3, 2009

Lee County veterans of Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom are invited to a Welcome Home Informational Fair at the Fort Myers VA Clinic next weekend.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and other organizations are offering the informational fair from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 12 to educate returning veterans about available benefits and services.
Besides receiving information about health care, veterans can also learn about educational opportunities through the post 9/11 GI Bill, employment and other services in the community.
“We just want to get the word out there and let them know what services are available,” said Faith Belcher, spokesperson for Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. “A lot of times they come back and don’t know that they are eligible for health benefits.”
The VA clinic sent more than 800 invitations to veterans, their families and friends, who recently returned to Lee County from deployment.
Belcher said there is not an official count of how many veterans will attend the fair, but she said there will likely be anywhere from 200 to 500.
The fair will also include activities for children and free food for those who attend. Parking is free and there is no admission cost.
Florida is one of three states with the highest concentration of veterans. There are 23.4 million veterans nationwide, according to a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Eight percent of all veterans are women, a fast-growing subgroup of the total veteran population. There will be health care information for women provided at the fair.
The clinic in Fort Myers, which is located at 3033 Winkler Ave., has treated 26,000 veterans.
Belcher said it offers a wide range of care, but if any services are not available, the patient can be referred to the Bay Pines Hospital in St. Petersburg or a local health provider.
“It’s a wide range of preventative health care. If there is something a veteran needed, we would do a referral to Bay Pines for a cardiologist, for example, or in some situations we may work with a community provider,” Belcher said.
Some of the services at the clinic include primary care, mental health services, day procedures, lab work, audiology, dermatology, eye care and some radiology services.
This year, construction will begin on a new 200,000-square-foot veteran outpatient clinic in Cape Coral on the corner of Diplomat Parkway and Corbett Road. It will expand on many of the services available in Fort Myers.
Belcher said bids for the Cape clinic are being sorted. A final bid will be awarded by the end of September, then construction can begin on the facility.
“Once the contract is awarded, there will be some procedures that need to happen and we will plan for a groundbreaking ceremony, and it will be off and running,” she said.