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New VA Clinic in Albert Lea Offers Closer Option for Veterans

Created: 11/08/2013 10:52 PM KSTP.com
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- Veterans surrounding the Freeborn County area will soon be able to quit those far drives to the cities for medical care. After years of pushing for it, Albert Lea is officially getting a Veterans Affairs Medical Clinic. Before, the closest one was in Rochester or it was up to the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis.

"I got shot in the head in Vietnam in '68, then I paralyzed my left side," said veteran Arnie Earl. Since nearly facing death, Arnie spent years jumping from clinic to clinic. "They sent me to Japan for 5 weeks, then from the to California for about 4 weeks , and from there to Colorado. I was out there for 8 months," said Arnie.

His final stop, the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, but he's had to drive up there from Austin for each check-up ever since. "They ride our van that goes up and back and it’s a long day for them when they have to go up and spend the entire day at the VA Medical Center and them come back," said Freeborn County Veterans Service Ron Reule. He says it's about time we take that burden off of our local servicemen. "There's been a slow start to it, but it’s a fantastic thing for the southeastern Minnesota Community," said Reule.

"I got a couple friends that live out west of town, and they'd be about 10 minutes west from the clinic," said Arnie.

So what does this clinic provide? "Community Based Outreach Clinics, the acronym is CBAC, and what they do is they're just a clinic to help, for lack of a better word, triage or diagnosing," said Ruele. They have your basic check-ups plus some mental health counseling and telemedicine services.

Still Arnie says it sure beats a full day on the road for a simple doctors visit. "We need all of this assistance for every veteran and being that close that'd be ideal," said Arnie.

Though vets can go there for many things, for major surgeries or more specific treatments they'd have to go to the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis. The Albert Lea VA Clinic is expected to open in 2014.