Rep. Aaron Pena and the band of veterans he's walking with from Edinburg to San Antonio to highlight the need for a VA hospital in the Valley have reached the halfway point. Here are the latest reports from the road:
Here's a story on the walk from the Corpus Christi Caller Times:
Army Sgt. Jesus Bocanegra of Weslaco said that when he seeks medical services, it isn't unusual to receive a letter from South Texas Veterans Health Care Services telling him his appointment is in several months.
"Three to four months for an appointment when you're sick is a lifetime," said Bocanegra, 23. "In the Valley, we have a lot of vets that are older that cannot afford to wait months for treatment or the trip to San Antonio. We need a hospital in the Valley."
Bocanegra and about 75 others left Edinburg on Saturday to march to San Antonio, the site of the nearest veterans hospital. About 15 arrived in Alice on Monday afternoon and plan to reach Three Rivers by 6 p.m. today. Their goal is to raise awareness and to challenge Congress to open a fully staffed, full-service hospital in the Rio Grande Valley.
According to the 2000 census, Texas had more than 1.7 million veterans, more than 197,000 of them in the Valley, and Nueces County has more than 31,800. Those figures do not take into account military personnel who have become veterans since 2000.
Cathy Travis, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, said the march is bringing attention to the issue, but the Veterans Administration has said there are not enough veterans in the Valley to make a hospital cost-efficient.
"We're spending money hand over fist and the veterans have received a bad deal," Travis said. "It makes me sick. (Ortiz) is talking to the Veterans Administration and the folks at Audie Murphy about the number of veterans because that's what's keeping the hospital from the Valley."