COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie said the veteran population in South Carolina is growing fast.
Right now, there are more than 400,000 veterans in the Palmetto State.
One of those veterans is Lee Bennett. He served in the Marine Corps and came to South Carolina after retiring from the military. He said he sees why many veterans call South Carolina home.
“Cost-wise, it’s a pretty inexpensive state to live in. You have the coast and the mountains, you got it all right here,” he said.
Bennett served in the Marines Corps during the Vietnam War, he was apart of the reserves for three decades. The Purple Heart Recipient volunteers with the VA now in South Carolina. Before the pandemic, he would drive veterans from the Upstate to Columbia for certain appointments.
“They’ll say, ‘We’ve never been chauffeured around by a full-bird colonel before.’ I enjoy it. We would share stories,” Bennett said.
Bennett’s drives could get a little shorter in the near future. Secretary Wilkie said they hope to expand the VA’s footprint in South Carolina. “This region in South Carolina is the second fastest growing region in the country. We’ll be here in bigger numbers and more facilities and we’ll be here to help veterans and their families.”
No word just yet on where those facilities could be going, officials said they are really trying to reach veterans in the rural parts of the state. They are still finalizing plans and requests.
Wilkie said they’ll continue to ramp up their tele-health services. To help veterans without high-speed internet, the VA has partnered with South Carolina Walmart’s to create telehealth clinics at their locations, Wilkie said.
“We’re doing this so we don’t force them and their families to drive in bad weather or long distances. They can go to the first Walmart they can find and go behind the pharmacy counter and talk to us here,” he said.
Bennett said he’s looking forward to more VA facilities in the state. He said, “It would help out in the long run.”