It’s been a long, trying road for the VA Clinic (Veteran’s Administration) to open in Jasper, but for David Shouse, some of the hardest parts of the process wasn’t the bureaucratic red tape.
“Listening to the stories really got me,” said Shouse, who owns the Shops of Jasper shopping center where the VA Clinic will be.
And seeing the frustration for the veterans has hit hard, he said. The VA Clinic, still not open after five years, has veteran’s stopping by daily, hoping to get an appointment. According to the VA Public Affairs spokesperson, Kendall Gregory, the clinic has an anticipated opening date of late May or early June.
Shouse tells of one gentleman, in his 80s, who jumped out of his car, with all his service papers in hand while he was on the site in January of this year.
“I asked if I could help him and he said he was here to register,” Shouse recalled. “I told him he couldn’t do that yet. We’d be open in maybe two months.
“He said ‘I won’t live two months.’ That got me in my gut.”
How it began
The journey of the VA Clinic began in July 2015, when Shouse noticed a group of people, wearing suits, in the Shops of Jasper parking lot, so he pulled in and began talking to them.
They were from the VA Administration and were looking for a place to establish a new clinic in the Northwest Georgia area.
“Farmer’s Furniture was interested in leasing it, but I took the information, formulated a bid and sent it in,” he said.
It was the start of a frustrating and painfully slow trip.
“We literally went months with no contact from them,” said Shouse.
He contacted the VA in July of 2016 that he’d been awarded the contact–in December 2015. It would be October 2018 before remodeling could begin. At one point, he emailed President Donald Trump and the Director of the Veteran’s Affairs. Those measures started the ball rolling, somewhat.
“Government contracts like this have timelines, where the landlord has to meet certain parts of the contract by those dates,” he explained. “Some of those dates had passed before we even knew we had the contract.”
He said the government was exempt from those time restraints, but landlord was required to meet them and it was the government’s slow pace that kept delayed the VA Clinic from coming to fruition.
Breaking ground on the VA Clinic
“It was two years after the lease was signed before we even got the blueprints,” Shouse said recalled.
Gregory said there are several factors involved, but the VA usually anticipates a start to finish time of 18 months to four years. December 2019 would be four years since the bid was approved and July 2020 would be four years since Shouse was notified of the winning the bid.
Some of the delays took so long that many though VA Clinic had fallen through. Word got out that there was a lien on the property and the clinic wouldn’t be able to open. Although there was a lien, Shouse said, it was a typical issue that was quickly resolved and never impacted the project. Still, the rumors combined with the slow progresses was tough.
“(The veterans) would call city hall and the Chamber of Commerce to get answers and they wouldn’t have any,” he said.
Even now, with all the major work completed, the VA continues to alter the specs originally sent to Shouse.
“We’ve had to go back and add nurse call lights in the bathrooms and other areas,” he said. “But they didn’t have those in the original specs.”
Even when the VA added them, they were not forthcoming with where or how many they wanted.
The flooring needed to be changed because officials wanted more color.
Those changes cost time and money, he said.
“People were thinking I was making a killing with a four-million dollar contract, but the government doesn’t pay for anything. The contract is all-inclusive,” he said.
The total amount of the contract was a little over four-million, but from that, he had to cover the construction cost — “well north of a half-million,” weekly cleaning at $30,000/year or $300,000 for the ten-year contract, power and water. The landlord also has to provide the VA Clinic with items like garbage bags and hand soap.
The landlord is also responsible for the water upgrades. Standard code stated that the facility needed 3/4-inch water pipes, but once the VA informed him of how many sinks, toilets and water heaters were needed, the pipes and meter had to be upgraded, out of the original monies.
“The meter was $18,000 and the two-inch pipes were $20,000,” he said.
And some things like the 12-foot drop ceilings that Shouse thought the VA would be okay with were already in place, but, the VA later came back and wanted them changed.
“They wanted them lowered to nine-foot,” he said, adding that cost another $50,000.”
Building relations: the impact the VA Clinic will have on the area
Despite the frustrations, Shouse said he began to see how much this clinic meant for local veterans as he and the contractors interacted with them daily during the remodeling.
“They would stop by and want to find out when it was opening,” he said. “They wanted to tell their battle stories.”
Even during this interview, two veterans stopped by to inquire to the opening.Those moments became special to him and reminding him what he was doing.
“We’re very anxious for it to open,” said Patty McMorton, who stopped by the clinic with her husband, Air Force veteran Larry. They live in Henry County and plan to receive treatment at the clinic.
“It really got to me. Some of these veterans couldn’t get medical care because they couldn’t afford to drive to Atlanta VA Clinic,” he said. “Often, they would get there only to find out their appointment had been changed or they’d been kicked to another doctor.”
He hopes this facility will remedy some of that.
“It will be able to provide service to 6,000 veterans,” he said, adding that Pickens County is the home of 3,000 veterans.
Gregory said the clinic will employ 55 federal employees and bring in an anticipated revenue of $4.4 million annually.
“This is probably the biggest project since Wal-Mart,” said Shouse.
“We live in the greatest country on this planet, hands down. To me, the battle (these men and women) face overseas is nothing compared to the battle they face once they come home. It’s changed my tune on how I plan my donations and projects and how I will leave some of my fortune,” he said.
He said the VA didn’t require a flag at this facility because it was not a stand alone, but Shouse said he wanted a flag there, one that could be seen, so he had one installed.
Shouse said he didn’t serve due, but wished he had, having been disqualified at the time due to him having his General Equivalcy Diploma instead of a high school diploma. He made the choice at the time to get his GED after being suspended from school during the last semester of his senior year. Until then, he’d been looking hard at the Navy.
“In hind sight, I wish I would have served our country. I’m serving those who did, now,” he said. “Spend a day with a World War Two veteran and listen to their stories. They didn’t have the technology we do today so when something broke, they had to use what was available and what they knew to fix it. They have my upmost respect.”
The VA Clinic should open between May and June.
For the latest Pickens County news, visit here.
Check back for a video feature on the VA Clinic.
JASPER, Ga. – It’s not Veterans’ Day, but you might think it was if you were in Pickens County on August 9 as they finally dedicated their long-awaited Veterans Memorial next to Lee Newton Park.
Situated at the edge of the parking lot on Stegall Drive, the Memorial opened for the public with an official dedication at 11:00 a.m. The dedication saw the colors of each military branch set in honor at the site while veterans and members of the American Legion hung the American Flag over the memorial. While several people offered words to sanctify the grounds, they added an offering of the 21-Gun Salute and “Taps,” as well.
The ceremony’s impact was only dwarfed by the size of the crowd that attended the day to offer thanks and respect to those who served. Most of them are veterans or have veterans in their family, a fact noted when a speaker asked these people to raise their hands during his speech.
One of those veterans is Al Parson Larson. At 90-years-old, Larson says he served on the USS Astoria, a light cruiser, in World War II. The day’s events held a certain somberness throughout, but meeting Larson punctuated the event as he confessed it would be the last time he would ever wear his uniform. It has been 70 years since Larson last wore his uniform in the line of duty. He says he has reached the point where it is just too difficult to get it on. He chuckled a moment before saying, “At least it still fits.”
Attending the event with his son, Larson was one of the few attending the event in uniform, and hundreds more who bore caps, shirts, and more signifying their service. But this photo, according to him, will be one of the last photos ever taken of him dressed out.
Veterans Memorial Park holds 5 smaller monuments in individual bricked in areas becoming part of the larger memorial that hosts bricks of honor for those who wish to purchase them in order to help build, expand, and maintain the memorial. Hoping to extend these bricks across the hillside, they confirmed they are still selling the bricks and will continue selling them indefinitely.
One speaker noted that 1% of Americans have served in the military, but looking at Pickens County, 12% of those in the county are veterans. Looking at this statistic, it has long been a need to honor that large portion of the community. But the honor is for all those who serve. The memorial has been a long time needed and a long time coming, but today it is finished. It stands as this county’s tribute for those in service.
Summing up the day’s feelings, John Trammell, President and CEO of Community Bank of Pickens County, said, “Vets, thank you for bravely doing what you were called to do so we can safely do what we are free to do.”
Make sure to check out more photos of the day at FYN’s Facebook Page.
RESCHEDULED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER!!
Collins Hosts Veterans Benefits Fair
WASHINGTON—Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) is hosting a benefits fair for veterans residing in Georgia’s Ninth Congressional District on January 24. United States military veterans are invited to attend the event at the University of North Georgia, where they can ask questions and meet caseworkers from Collins’s office.
Representatives from the Atlanta Regional Veterans Affairs Office, Atlanta Veterans Affairs Health Care System, Georgia National Cemetery, Georgia Department of Veterans Service, Emory Healthcare Veterans Program, and Hire Heroes USA will also participate in the event.
Additional details are available below.
Can The Swamp Be Drained?
It’s a crying shame that Dr.Tom Price, former Ga 6th District Rep. and Trumps appointed Secretary of Health & Human Services, saw it necessary to cave in to the leftist media’s tsunami attack on his transportation woes. The “Establishment”, the corrupted one world government crowd of Progressivism, can now proudly hang another trophy head on their wall. It appears the VA Secretary may be next followed by whomever shows even a hint of weakness. Beware, the establish will eat its own.
But let’s be truthful. This is not an accident. It’s a coordinated ‘establishment’ attack by our ‘betters’ to neuter Trump presidency they see as dangerous to their lifestyle. They haven’t been able to demonize or criminalize Trump, so they have now started picking around the edges claiming a trophy here and a trophy there until Trump’s vision of draining the swamp collapses into the very swamp we know he was talking about. They will drown him in vile pettiness.
They are stealing our election. Do not look to the GOP for succor. They are all in for the kill. This is larger than just Democrats and Republicans wanting to retain power; this is a massive coordinated, well funded attack by the “establishment elites,” funded by their financial cronies, to maintain the status quo. The organizers behind it don’t really care if the government is Constitutional, Socialist, Marxist or Fascists so long as the money brokers control the strings that make all us puppets dance to their tune.
John Kasich, Republican Governor of Ohio, a total establish bureaucrat, is licking his chops waiting to offer himself up once again as America’s best hope. Hope for what? Government through bipartisanship? That’s all he talks about. Hope is just wishful thinking as we learned after suffering eight years of “Hope and Change’ during the excruciating Obama days. Bipartisanship with Democrats simply means that our side caves in to their sides Progressive agenda, an agenda the American voters rejected in the past three elections and continue to reject with the recent primary election of firebrand Ala. Senatorial candidate, Judge Roy Moore.
Now we have to continue the fight, It is incumbent upon conservative voters everywhere to stand up and be counted, to understand, as Reagan cautioned, “Don’t look to Government to solve the problem, the government is the problem” and realize that…“There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!.” …Mario Savio, UC Berkeley, Dec. 2, 1965.
The ‘machine’ is trying to save itself. With the alarming exodus of Trumps conservative cabinet secretaries, presidential advisers, associates and mid-level managers, it appears the deep state could win the battle after all. The next generation following us are becoming our enemies, brainwashed as they have been by the socialist dogma spewing from lecture stands in our colleges and universities. How can it be stopped? Can the swamp be drained? How do we address America’s history without being challenged over its every perceived error?
But what about the swamp? If you haven’t read The Art of the Deal, you can’t possibly understand Trumps tactics. He will get around to draining the swamp. It’s a three step plan with steps one and two almost completed. I don’t think a mere politician has the tactical skills to compete with Donald Trump. He’s a lot smarter than the average bear. More later.
Remember, freedom is the goal, the Constitution is the way. Now, go get ‘em! (30Sep17)
Who Should Get the Respect?
Just what is it with this tawdry business of the NFL players not paying due respect to America’s precious emblems, especially our flag and National Anthem? It might have all started with that former German NFL Quarterback who looks like a burned tumbleweed, but it didn’t. He was the flash point for another Leftist attack on American men, part of the Left’s campaign to feminize American men by attacking the NFL from a direction other than the notion about dangerous concussions and lifelong injuries to athletes doing their jobs. What is shocking is the NFL’s jumping in to help with their own destruction.
Actually, when I first saw Kaepernick (that’s German, isn’t it?) kneeling two seasons ago during the singing of the National Anthem I thought at first he would be in big trouble for praying. It impressed me that he was humbling himself before God for his good fortune of being born an American, raised by a loving family and accepted into the ranks of America’s greatest spectacle of sports, NFL football, as a highly paid performer. I thought he would be crushed like they crushed Tim Tebow when he acknowledged his adulation to a higher power for his skills.
Then he spoke. Oh, no, he knelt because of some conceived idea about how bad blacks were still being treated by the racists police in American, wantonly killing them as they pleased and keeping them from advancement and achieving the American dream. Where did that crap come from? He makes a higher income in one game then I will in the remainder of my lifetime.
Then we learned he has a new girlfriend, in New York City, who is not only a striking beauty and a newscaster, but a Muslim as well. Now the plot thickens. Not only have the feminists found a way into neutering machismo American men (concussions), but now it appears the verbal Jihadists are in the game as well. What a surprise.
The law of unintended consequences once again revealed itself. Somehow, the leaders of the NFL thought it important enough to involve the entire NFL enterprise, every team, staff member and player, in the controversy. The Pittsburgh Steelers got top billing not only because their underprivileged head coach, an American of African descent as well as a Clinton donor and fundraiser, Mike Tomlin, counseled that the entire team should stay in barracks until the completion of the National Anthem. But, he got pissed that one player, Alejandro Villanueva, disobeyed and did present himself in public showing respect for America. No matter Villanueva was a West Point grad and a decorated Ranger trained Captain of Infantry with combat experience, he disrespected his team mates. But, did he? No, he disrespected the stupid idea that they were better than the country they lived in and the warriors that make it happen.
So, was it Donald Trump’s emotional outburst that precipitated the whole NFL orgy of self-gratification, or a media excuse to find another way to denounce their hated Trump? When I heard the comment, “sons of bitches’, I wasn’t offended or even shocked. He took the words right out of my mouth. I knew his comment was general and not directed at any individual. I was proud that my non politically correct president is still telling it like it is.
Apart from team Steelers and its management looking like the complete fools they are, the sales of Villanueva’s Jersey’s shot through the roof. Don’t you just love free enterprise! My views here are not conflicted at all. That team should have been on the field and, instead of taking the knee in prayer, each individual member should have been given the option of staying inside their safe space until the anthem was over or, remaining on the field and rendering the respect due.
The disrespect shown by decisions of the NFL, some individual team owners and coaches to our selfless warriors, police and first responders, is incomprehensible especially as the arrest rate of black NFL players has risen to nearly one a week. That’s a cultural problem.
I wonder how many actual veterans there are within the ranks of the NFL, blacks and whites. Who should get respect? Who earns it? Players who beat up their wives and girl friends, shoot up nightclubs and do drugs, or the lowly paid Infantry slug just returned from a combat tour?
America is filled with people possessing different notions of what constitutes the good life. Is it bravery, heroism and duty while proudly wearing the government’s uniform, or reaping in big salaries for being good at a sport? NFL players are in it for the money. No problem. There is no other reason for facing crushing injuries once a week for three months a year, other than getting paid big bucks for it. I got it! If a man can make a good living playing football because he’s fast and agile, can catch balls and tackle runners, then he surely earns his rewards. But, do not disrespect the soldier or policeman. That’s an attitude problem.
Unlike the combat soldier who goes into battle, whose financial rewards are minuscule but include the 50-50 chance of permanent injury or death, with a small insurance stipend waiting, the NFL football player can look forward to the big payoffs, homes, flash cars and liquid screen TV’s for their mama’s.
If the NFL thinks they’ve won some battle because Trump called them SOB’s, they are sorely mistaken. Americans are fed up with this Leftist social engineering crap, and, to now infect the NFL with it because of political correctness, is to doom it to an oblivion faster than the Grand Old Party will get there.
Pro football is an entertainment. People pay for entertainment. People will learn quickly enough to do without it because every community has peewee, Junior and Senior High School league football where their attention to mayhem can be directed, and their devotion to bravery and personal achievement can still be realized.
Somebody out there had better make a decision and soon. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.
Remember, freedom is the goal, the Constitution is the way. Now, go get ‘em! (26Sep17)
Jasper, GA – Today, August 15, at 11:30 A.M. citizens gathered at Lee Newton Park across from Jasper Middle School for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Pickens County Veterans Memorial Park.
Pickens County Veterans Memorial Park Association Inc. stated they were very appreciative of the support and hard work that is being put into the park. They are also already speaking of possible additions to the park such as a wall of honor.
Following a prayer, trumpets played before breaking ground in honor of the memorial. City and county officials such as Commissioner Chairman Rob Jones, Mayor Weaver, and Gerry Nechvatal, Chamber Executive Director attended to be apart of the event.
The mission of the association is to pay tribute to veterans who fought, and will continue to fight, for our country.
Read more on this park at Veterans Memorial Park Coming To Pickens.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com
Jasper, GA – A Veterans Affairs (VA) Clinic is coming to East Church Street next to Save-A-Lot Pickens County. It is expected to serve 6,000 veterans a year and is said to open in 2018.
The Atlanta VA Health Care System has entered into a lease agreement with AFTK, LLC that will bring the clinic to Pickens.
The Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated health care system in the United States, providing care at 1,245 health care facilities, including 170 VA Medical Centers, and 1,065 outpatient sites of care.
VA Clinic’s provide a wide range of services including critical care, mental health, orthopedics, pharmacy, radiology, and physical therapy. In addition, most of the centers offer other medical and surgical specialty services.
Greg Kendall, Atlanta VA Medical Center public affairs officer stated, the Pickens County clinic will provide primary care and mental health services to veterans in Pickens, Dawson, Cherokee, Gilmer, Lumpkin and surrounding counties.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com
By Melanie Dallas, LPC
The statistics were shocking. A 2014 study by the Veterans Administration (VA) found that 22 veterans were taking their own lives each day in the U.S. A follow-up study published last year found that although suicides among veterans were decreasing, there was still an average of 20 veteran suicides each day. The latter study also found that while veterans accounted for only 8.5 percent of the U.S. adult population in 2014, they accounted for 18 percent of all deaths by suicide.
While it can be easy to assume veterans’ experiences in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – in which thousands of young adults experienced physical and psychological injuries – were driving these tragic numbers, it is more complicated than that. In fact, the 2016 report found the majority of veterans dying by suicide – 65 percent – were aged 50 and older. The VA concluded the overall risk for suicide among veterans was 21 percent higher than for civilian adults.
Psychologists have long known that mental health disorders, including major depression and other mood disorders, are associated with an increased risk of suicide. And although not everyone that attempts suicide has mental illness, the vast majority – by some estimates, 90 percent – of individuals that complete suicide suffer from a mental health disorder.
There may be several conclusions that can be drawn from these reports, but a primary one is that many veterans are in need of mental and other behavioral health services. In addition, it would seem, many veterans are not receiving the services they need to successfully deal with the psychological effects of their military service – whatever those may be and however they occurred.
As the number of veterans in need of mental health services – and healthcare services in general – surged with the wars in the Middle East, the Veterans Administration found itself overwhelmed. In order to help meet the needs of these and other veterans, the VA began partnering with local healthcare providers.
In Georgia, the Atlanta VA Medical Center partners with Highland Rivers Health to provide behavioral health services for veterans – and Highland Rivers has become one of the largest providers of these services to veterans in the state.
As a VA partner, Highland Rivers is able to provide services to veterans who have VA healthcare benefits. But all of our services are available to veterans, even those that do not have VA benefits or are uninsured.
Highland Rivers has worked to tailor our services to the unique needs of veterans as well, and several of our therapists are STAR-certified behavioral health providers (meaning they have completed intensive training developed by the Center for Deployment Psychology to meet the deployment-related psychological needs of veterans and their families).
Currently, Highland Rivers provides a variety of services specifically for veterans, including outpatient counseling for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), prolonged exposure and military sexual abuse. We also offer PTSD and veteran peer support groups, so veterans can learn from others who have had similar experiences and can relate to their challenges.
In addition, Highland Rivers provides crisis intervention and stabilization, veteran-specific supportive housing assistance, supported employment, substance use treatment and community support services, among other programs.
Although there is no easy solution to the problem of veteran suicide, it is critical that veterans receive the mental health treatment services they need to help them recover from trauma, depression, mood disorders or substance use disorders associated with their service.
Highland Rivers believes that recovery is always possible and that no veteran should feel the only choice is to end his or her life. Highland Rivers is close by and ready to help. For an appointment, call us at (800) 729-5700 or speak with your VA case manager about receiving services from Highland Rivers Health.
Melanie Dallas is a licensed professional counselor and CEO of Highland Rivers Health, which provides treatment and recovery services for individuals with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities in a 12-county region of northwest Georgia that includes Bartow, Cherokee, Floyd, Fannin, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk and Whitfield counties.
Citizens and veterans of Pickens County have formed an association to create the Pickens County Veterans Memorial Park.
The Veterans Memorial Park will be located at Lee Newton Park. The memorial is being made possible only through donations. The Pickens Cub Scouts have even helped by breaking ground and beginning landscape work for the park to show that work is in progress.
They currently have a program set up called Bricks of Honor in which this park will honor veterans who have fought for our country and freedom by placing bricks engraved with their names.
The Association’s goal is to have the park completed by Veterans Day November 11, 2017. If you would like more information visit here.
Anyone wishing to honor a relative or known veteran could purchase one of the $125 Bricks to be placed at the memorial.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at www.fetchyournews.com
|May 11, 2017
ATLANTA – The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) will continue to host its quarterly workshops to help veterans apply for benefits, receive counseling and move into the workforce. Workshops are open to all veterans and their spouses/caregivers.
The first workshop will be held on Tuesday, May 23, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon at the GDOL’s Toccoa Career Center located at 37 Foreacre St. A second workshop will be held on Thursday, May 25, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon at the Habersham Career Center located at 215 Hodges St. in Cornelia. Workshops will continue quarterly unless noted otherwise.
Representatives from several agencies will be on hand at the workshops to help with:
Veterans should bring a valid identification, including military ID cards and driver’s licenses, along with their resumes.
All GDOL career centers provide a wide-range of employment services specifically for veterans. Career centers are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Visit dol.georgia.gov to learn more about career opportunities, Employ Georgia and other GDOL services for job seekers and employers, and to connect with us on social media.
Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log will honor Veterans during the worship hour at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 13th, 2016.
The congregation extends a special invitation to attend to Veterans in North GA and their families, whether full-timers without a church home, weekenders, sometimers, or day visitors. Visit the website for more information! Cornerstone Baptist Church of Cherry Log
Everyone welcome, and nursery provided. Cornerstone, the brown log church, is located south of The Pink Pig on Cherry Log Street.
Veterans Day marks the anniversary of the end of World War I when, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns fell silent in Europe. (more…)