Sen. Joni Ernst visits Mason City VA clinic on 99 county tour

(ABC 6 News) – U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst is on her annual tour of 99 counties across Iowa to hear from Iowans about the concerns, ideas and questions they might have for her to bring back to Washington, D.C.

Ernst made a stop in Cerro Gordo county on Tuesday to Mason City’s new VA Outpatient Clinic location about the services it provides to area veterans.

Ernst said it is important for veterans to know the services that are available to them, especially women veterans, as this is something she has been working on in Washington and as a woman veteran herself.

"I think it is important that we recognize more and more women are engaging in military service and we need to have that specialized care for our women veterans as well once they’ve exited the military. There are certain things that women need to have just as an overall healthy regime," Ernst said. "So we want to make sure that we have the specialists, those providers, available and trained to work with our women veterans."

This VA provides primary care services as well as specialty health services such as mental health and women’s health. The clinic said it saw tremendous growth in telehealth services during the pandemic.

Darwin Goodspeed, Director of the Central Iowa VA Healthcare System said they are set to expand services at the Mason City location.

"Having this clinic in this community is important in a city the size of Mason City," Goodspeed said.

He encouraged all veterans to get their veterans benefits in place so if you ever need them, they’re there.

"So there are lots of things that other insurances don’t pay. I think some veterans think that if they choose the VA, that they have to give up their Medicare or their private insurance, they don’t, it’s in addition to any other health coverage they have," he said.

Employees at the VA say they have a number of veterans that come down from Albert Lea for care.

"I just think that it speaks very highly of the community and those that are providing care," Ernst said about the care that is being provided to veterans in Mason City and in Iowa.

The new location of the VA opened in October 2021. This location serves about 5,000 patients but the VA said there is currently no waitlist to receive care.