VA changes

The community-based outpatient clinic in Lecanto is the closest VA facility for veterans.

The Oct. 1 date marking the start of administrative changes to the Veterans Affairs Clinic in Lecanto is looming, but assurances have been made that veterans won’t notice the difference if they receive health care at the Citrus County facility.

Many veterans said they were confused about the changes when the VA hosted a town hall meeting at the Lecanto clinic in August, said VA spokeswoman Shayna Rodriguez.  

“We really need to put the message out. Veterans think they have to come to Tampa. That is not the case,” she said.

The administrative changes realign the VA Clinic in Lecanto from being under its current North Florida/South Georgia Veterans’ Healthcare System over to the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and Clinic in Tampa. The change will come in Oct. 1.

VA patients seeing primary health care providers at the Lecanto office can continue to do so under the changes, Rodriguez said.

The only potential change comes when the veteran needs specialized treatment referrals, she said.

If the VA patient in Lecanto is referred to a specialist, staff in Lecanto will send them to the Tampa hospital. Currently, Lecanto patients are sent to Gainesville’s VA hospital for specialized care or tests.

But the patient will have final say, Rodriguez said. That means that if the Lecanto patient wants to keep going to Gainesville for specialized care, they can. But they have to ask. Oherwise, they’ll be sent to Tampa.

Also not changing is the VA’s van service from Lecanto to Gainesville, Rodriguez said.

In addition, the service is so popular volunteer van drivers are welcomed.

The Disabled American Veterans organization is also exploring the possibility of providing free transportation from Lecanto to Tampa for health care.

“That way we’re trying to make transportation easier for them,” Rodriguez said.

The VA will hold another to town hall meeting 2 p.m., Dec. 9 at the Lecanto clinic where veterans can let VA officials know what they think of the changes and make suggestions.

“We want this to go as smoothly and seamlessly as possible,” she said, “so veterans will get the…healthcare they earned and deserve.”  

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Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.

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