Biloxi VA hosts VIP from Washington - - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi VA hosts VIP from Washington

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Dr. Tommy Sowers toured the Biloxi VA Medical Center Wednesday morning as well as the National Cemetery and the Back Bay Mission in Biloxi. Dr. Tommy Sowers toured the Biloxi VA Medical Center Wednesday morning as well as the National Cemetery and the Back Bay Mission in Biloxi.

Almost $300 million has been spent on improvements at the Biloxi Veterans Administration complex in the past eight years. Wednesday, an assistant secretary for the VA got a close up look at what those improvements have meant for veterans' health care.

Dr. Tommy Sowers came in ready to listen. He also took a lot of notes. During the tour, he heard one thing quite often: the employees at the VA love the vets they care for.

Being a veteran himself helps his understanding of the challenges the VA faces, funding being one of them.  

"In the last four years, both President Obama and Secretary Shenseki have fought very hard to expand the funding and Congress has approved it," Sowers explained. 

The secretary is very hands on, even learning what's it like to be blind, and trying to fix a faucet. He was also hands on with several patients. 

Sowers addressed the backlog the VA faces when it comes to disability benefits.  

"Both the president and the secretary know that the wait is unacceptable. It's been a decades long problem that's developed," Sowers said.  

While secretary Sowers left the Biloxi VA very impressed by what he saw, the care the veterans are receiving here, he also knows the mission is not complete yet. The word needs to get out, hopefully from other veterans, according to Sowers.  

"If you're a happy veteran, like me, that comes here and enjoys your VA health care, we're asking you to go talk to your brothers and sisters, and your wives and your husbands to come and get their care here at the VA," Sowers implored. 

Homeless vets are of particular concern to the secretary, but progress is being made.  

"It's not the goal to address veterans homelessness, it's to end it by 2015. We've seen a 19 percent decrease nationwide and there are critical years because no veteran that fought for their country should have to fight for a roof over their heads," Sowers said.

And the secretary will be leading the charge in that fight.

The Biloxi VA covers a four state area, and handled medical treatment for more than 62,000 veterans last year.  In addition, the VA also delivered mental health care to almost 140,000 veterans in 2012.

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