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      "Critical" expansion approved for veteran clinic

      Veterans in northern Michigan could see upgrades made to the Traverse City Outpatient Clinic.

      Congressman Dan Benishek (MI-01) announced the expansion Thursday.

      Congress approved the expansion in 2013, but the Veterans Affairs Department didn't sign off on the lease package until now.

      â??It's still going to be a little bit of a while before they get bids for the space and all that. So it'll be a while before it's done, but it's well on the way to making it happen,â?? explained Benishek.

      Dr. Benishek toured the Traverse City facility Thursday and agreed, more resources are needed.

      â??The mental health specialist is sharing a room with ophthalmology services. They're crowded into a very small space. They're going to just modernize the space because the space right now is very difficult to maintain the patient load.â??

      The former VA hospital surgeon announced the approved expansion of the community based outpatient clinic or CBOC. The expansion will take the space from 10,000 to 22,000 square feet.

      Veterans say the added room will make a big difference.

      â??I would say it's critical,â?? said Steven Brown, a retired serviceman from Kalkaska. â??It's critical that something is done to bring some of that larger effort into this area. Because it's growing in numbers are growing every day.â??

      Brown spent 27 years in military service. Now he receives treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

      Brown says services in northern Michigan are limited. In order to see an audiologist for his hearing loss, Brown travels to Cadillac. For group therapy with other veterans dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he needs to go to Saginaw or Battle Creek.

      â??Those types of things are not in full capacity here yet,â?? explained Brown.

      â??I'm looking forward to less travel for veterans and faster access to care,â?? said Benishek.

      It may take time, but local veterans are grateful for the increased coverage.

      â??Anything they can do in the Traverse City area to enhance what they have now will not only help me, but it will help every veteran who suffers from these types of issues,â?? said Brown.

      Dr. Benishek will be in town Wednesday August 27 to discuss rural healthcare for veterans.

      The VA congressional hearing will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the VFW.