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Local News Next Louisville

Abramson Discusses Transition, VA Hospital

It’s unclear when the Veterans Administration will choose a location for a new hospital in Louisville. But Mayor Jerry Abramsons says he’s finished trying to influence the VA’s decision.

Last month, a VA official told WFPL a report on the viability of various hospital locations was forthcoming. The VA is considering building a new hospital downtown near other hospitals, at the current hospital location on Zorn Avenue or within fifteen miles of downtown.

Abramson and his colleagues have encouraged the VA to split their decision and put inpatient services downtown. He says they’ve made a strong argument, but can longer lobby the VA.

“We keep calling up there and they keep saying ‘Don’t bother us. We’ll call you, don’t call us.’ We don’t know how long that’s going to take in terms of the ultimate decision, but we’ve got all of our papers in—the University of Louisville, the city, the state—submitting it,” he says.

Others have encouraged the VA to avoid downtown and make all the services available at another location easily reachable by car.

Abramson made his comments on WFPL’s State of Affairs Tuesday. He also discussed his impending departure.

There are less than five months left in Abramson’s term, and he says he’s ready to help the new mayor move in to Metro Hall. Abramson built a transition fund into the current budget to pay for the next mayor’s transition team. Abramson says there will be offices and computers available for that team immediately after the election.

“We feel like we have sufficient funds to help them with the transition,” he says. “Then it’s up to me to work with the incoming mayor and my staff to show them the issues that are still open for discussion and to ensure they understand, as best we can in a month and a half to two months.”

Abramson has chosen to seek the Lieutenant Governor’s office next year rather than run for re-election this year.

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Local News

VA Still Studying Locations For New Hospital

by Gabe Bullard

The list of possible locations for a new veterans hospital in Louisville is being whittled down.

The new hospital could be located next to the existing one on Zorn Avenue, downtown near University Hospital or on a plot of land within 15 miles of downtown. The VA recently sought recommendations for land to purchase if the third option is taken. Facility Planner Bob Morey says a report will soon be released on the viability of the lots that were suggested.

“We went out and looked at the sites and evaluated them and we’re awaiting the final report as far as recommendations for the sites to include in the final steps,” he says.

Morey says he expects a location to be chosen by October of next year. Several local officials have asked the VA to put the hospital near others downtown, but many veterans say that location is too inconvenient.

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U Of L Opens New Offices For Veterans, Transfers

The University of Louisville is touting its new offices for veterans and transfer students.

Both offices previously existed, but U of L has moved them into one renovated facility. More than 1,500 students transfer to U of L each year, and there are about 700 veterans currently enrolled.

More than 100 of those veterans are on the new GI Bill, which passed in August. And Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Ken Lucas says the school can expect more veterans to enroll on the bill.

“The benefits are quite good,” he says. “And I think that any veteran who would like to get an education certainly has the financial road block removed.”

The new offices cost about $225 thousand for renovations and staff.

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Officials Still Awaiting VA Hospital Decision

A decision on where to locate a new veterans hospital in Louisville is expected in the near future.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to announce a plan for new facilities in the next few months. Currently, the options are to build a new inpatient center downtown and keep the outpatient center on Zorn Avenue; to build inpatient and outpatient centers downtown; or, to renovate the facilities at Zorn Avenue.

But once a decision is made, VA facility planner Bob Morey says construction won’t begin for some time.

“We still have to do design, and then construction,” he says. “Whenever the decision’s made, it will probably go through some kind of public hearing process.”

Morey says it’s still possible that the VA Secretary could choose an entirely different location for the hospital, as well. The University of Louisville and Metro Government favor a downtown facility because of its proximity to other hospitals. Many veterans say the Zorn Avenue facilities are more convenient and renovating them would saves money.

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Grant to Boost Legal Aid's Services for Veterans

The Legal Aid Society of Louisville plans to expand its approach to helping veterans, thanks to a $79,000 grant. It comes from the non-profit organization Legal Service Corporation, which funds over one hundred legal aid programs in the United States.

Legal Aid of Louisville Executive Director Jeffrey Been says it isn’t right for veterans to go without the legal representation they need, because they have fought for the freedom of others.

“Frankly, they face the same challenges that working families across this Commonwealth face,” says Been, “evictions, foreclosures, accessing medical care, government benefits to which they’re entitled, facing consumer debts, and dealing with domestic violence.”

Been says the money will be used to expand the organization’s web presence and resources for veterans, and to strengthen existing networks to help veterans reach the organizations that can assist them.

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Group Calls Attention To Agent Orange Illnesses

The Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America will hold a public forum today to discuss the endemic health risks of the Agent Orange defoliant used during the Vietnam War.

Spokesperson Mokie Porter says the group is pushing for a national medical center to treat the myriad health problems attributed to Agent Orange that have been found in veterans’ children and grandchildren.

“What we’re finding is everything from living disabilities to heart problems, kidney problems, hearing loss, cleft palate, multiple sclerosis, asthma,” she says. “It’s a broad spectrum.”

The forum is being held in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans of America’s 14th annual convention in Louisville. Actor Jon Voight will address the convention regarding a proposed national holiday honoring Vietnam veterans.

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VA Holding Seeking Input On Medical Center Locations

The Department of Veterans Affairs will hold a public meeting Monday at 1PM at the Clifton Center to get input on where the VA should put a new medical center in Louisville.

There are three options for the new center. One is to build it next to University of Louisville Hospital. Another is to renovate the existing facility on Zorn Avenue. And the third option is to split services between the two locations.

VA spokesperson Judy Williams says the public will be able to share opinions on all three options at the meeting, and other input has already been sought.

“We did hold a focus group at the medical center and that included veterans, service organizations and other stakeholder representatives,” she says.

The VA secretary will make the final decision on the facility’s location.

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Flag-Lowering Policy Upsets Kentucky Veterans

Kentucky’s policy on lowering the flag in honor of fallen soldiers has recently changed, and some veterans groups are opposed to that change. Under the previous policy, flags were lowered to half-staff to honor fallen soldiers who had served with a Kentucky unit. The flag remained lowered until after the soldier’s burial.

Governor Steve Beshear last month changed the policy to honor only Kentucky-born soldiers, and only on the day of their burial.

State Adjutant Ken Hart with the American Legion of Kentucky says the move slights soldiers who are based in Kentucky, but may not be Kentuckians.

“We have very many people who serve on military bases within the confines of the state of Kentucky, particularly at Fort Campbell and Fort Knox. I believe restricting it to native-born Kentuckians is appalling,” says Hart.

Over a three month period earlier this year, flags were lowered 26 times for 26 soldiers. Four of those soldiers were Kentuckians.