Starting next month, veterans on St. John will no longer be forced to travel to St. Thomas for medical tests and lab work.
After years of effort, Love City’s American Legion Post 131 members, working with V.I. Veterans Affairs and their federal VA partners, were able to pave the way for veterans to see doctors and get lab work done at Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center.
American Legion Post 131 members, V.I. VA officials and federal VA representatives will host a grand opening ceremony for the new services on Wednesday, September 1, at MKSCHC.
Before this, the estimated 200 veterans on St. John had to travel to the St. Thomas VA clinic just to see a doctor. While the services available to veterans at MKSCHC will be limited, they will be about the same available to veterans through the St. Thomas clinic.
“The VA on the federal side is opening the veterans clinic inside the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center,” said Keishell Daniel, the V.I. VA coordinator for St. Thomas and St. John. “The same services that are available on St. Thomas will now be available on St. John for our veterans. We’ve been working on this for a while now, so it’s great to see it happening.”
While Puerto Rico remains the closest VA hospital for veterans in the Virgin Islands who need more in-depth medical attention or procedures, having the ability to just go to MKSCHC for a doctor’s appointment is expected to make life much easier for St. John veterans.
“Post 131 started working on this back in 2007 as a needed thing for our veterans,” said American Legion Post 131 retired commander Jerry Runyon. “I cannot believe this is finally happening. The wait was worth it.”
“I hope that our veterans take advantage of the services available here now,” Runyon said.
In addition to the grand opening at MKSCHC on September 1, American Legion, Department of Labor, National Guard Survivor Outreach Services, COAST and other veterans service organizations will host an outreach fair in Cruz Bay’s Franklin Powell Park starting at 10 a.m.
“We’ll be sharing information in reference to veterans and employment skills and training,” said Kyan Harley, Department of Labor’s veteran’s employment representative. “We want to let veterans know what services are out there for them. We’ll distribute information about the services we have to get veterans back in the work force.”
The road to realizing veterans services on St. John was a long and difficult one which took years of work by many different people, according to Runyon.
“I’d like to congratulate our past commanders because they all worked on this and are to be thanked for getting services on St. John for St. John veterans,” said Runyon.
Runyon thanked American Legion Post 131 Past Commanders Harry Daniel, Will Henderson and Elmo Rabsatt, Past Post Commander and Present Post Historian Aubrey Sewer, Post Auxiliary President Marie Lett, Department of VA chief of staff Sandra Garcia Lopel and VA Caribbean Healthcare System’s Dr. Mimm.
“They are really to be thanked for all the work they put into this over the years,” said Runyon.
While officials are still working out details of the services — like how many days the clinic will be staffed and what services exactly will be available — VA representatives expected to know more by the grand opening on September 1.
For more information about the upcoming VA clinic on St. John call 774-6674. For information about services available from VI VA call 774-6100.