ABERDEEN – Access Clinic of Smithville's previous designation of being a Community-Based Outpatient Clinic made staying local for Monroe County veteran's medical services a shorter drive.

After Access Family Health Services was not awarded the contract to continue providing veterans with medical services, and a consolidated service opened late last year through the Tupelo VA Clinic, it left many local veterans with questions, according to Corey Crippen, public affairs officer with the Columbus VA Outpatient Clinic.

"A lot of veterans are making the decision between Tupelo and Columbus. We've discovered there's a lot of cloudiness with the Columbus VA if we're affiliated with the Jackson VA," Crippen said. "Monroe County is kind of unique. It's so far north that's too far from the Jackson VA. It's so far south that it's too far from the Memphis Va, and it's so far west that it's too far from the Birmingham VA. Monroe and Lowndes County are unique, and we want to capitalize on that. It's good for veterans to not have to make long trips."

Through the Choice Program through the VA, Crippen said veterans don't have to bigger facilities for all of their medical care.

On Feb. 17, representatives will have the Jackson VA mobile outreach bus onsite at American Legion Post 26 and, along with representatives from the Columbus VA Outpatient Clinic, will answer veterans' questions about the Choice Program and provide enrollment opportunities.

"Our primary goal is to help those left without a home. A lot of people don't realize the specialty care they can get at the VA and they're overly surprised," Crippen said.

According to Monroe County Veterans Affairs Officer Jason Sullivan, Tupelo's clinic is adjusting better to Monroe County veterans' needs as employees are learning operating procedures better, but having a local VA provider is more beneficial for the county's nearly 3,000 veterans.

"If I could say anything to our legislators it would be to try to get it back in Smithville. Once the veterans get in a rhythm, it's hard for them to change," Sullivan said.

The open house event in Aberdeen will be from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and feature a free lunch.

"The lunch and refreshments will be provided thanks to the McGonagill family and Piggly Wiggly. Also American Legion has been so gracious to us, so we're prepared for good or bad weather," Sullivan said.

For more information, call Crippen at 244-0391.

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