Local Copperas Cove VA clinic has capacity to serve more than 7,000 veterans
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Veterans in the Copperas Cove area need not let the driving distance keep them from receiving healthcare locally through the Central Texas VA system.
For the past eight months, Copperas Cove has had a community-based VA Clinic that is willing to help veterans access their healthcare efficiently and offer some of the same services as the facility in Temple.
The VA Clinic in Copperas Cove is in the Town Square Shopping Center on the city’s west end and opened its doors in October 2022.
Potomac Healthcare Solutions is the company with a 10-year contract with the Veterans Administration to operate the clinic in Copperas Cove for the VA.
Earnest “Buck” Benton is the Executive Vice President of Potomac Healthcare Solutions, based in Woodbridge, VA.
“We’re a service-disabled veteran-owned small business. Two senior partners and I are retired Navy Medical Service Corps officers and were enlisted Hospital Corpsman prior to being commissioned from enlisted ranks,” Benton said of his service record. “Our company is now around 13 years old. We like to think of it as, we’re veterans taking care of veterans.”
The company’s goal is to build and run VA clinics, as the VA solicits for companies to bid, build, and run the medical facilities.
Potomac Healthcare Solutions has another clinic in Granbury, Texas. Valor Healthcare has approximately 45 clinics around the nation.
“Jointly, we provide care to veterans, second only to the VA itself,” he said.
The north Georgia resident has spent a lot of time in Copperas Cove and is excited his company has been able to open the facility to serve veterans.
Benton said the clinic has the capacity to serve 7,200 veterans. When the VA put out the call for a clinic project in Copperas Cove, Benton said that at that point it was estimated there were 14,000 to 30,000 veterans in the area.
The clinic itself has two full-time physicians on board, plus four midlevel service providers to include physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Then, after another physician completes the process of joining the VA as a provider, the Copperas Cove clinic will have as many as eight providers on board.
Currently, the clinic is serving about 2,000 patients, but Benton is hoping for more.
Unfortunately, there was what Benton called a “rumor mill” that was going around that the clinic was “just a storefront for telehealth.”
Benton said that’s simply not true, although the clinic does offer some telehealth services.
“We have staff, who are veterans or family members of veterans or active duty who want to help take care of veterans in the community.”
One of those veterans is Toccarra Custis, an area resident for 27 years.
Custis is the Clinic Administrator and has served as an Army medic, a surgical assistant at Darnall Army Medical Center, and has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
“The clinic provides primary care, mental health care, social work healthcare, and also includes care such as battlefield acupuncture, meditation, different things that encompass the whole person’s health,” Custis said. Also, all clinic providers have a women’s healthcare designation, meaning that they can provide gynecologic services for female veterans.
“We have a women veteran population of about 30 percent,” she added. “So, women’s health is very important to the VA even more so now than ever.”
With telehealth services, the facility also offers patient education classes and nutrition classes.
The clinic, like a typical medical clinic, provides laboratory services, similar to a civilian facility across the road from the Cove VA.
Patients can have lab drawn in Copperas Cove and a courier transports those samples to Temple, like the civilian facility counterpart. The clinic does not provide imaging services.
Clinic hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., with the lab opening at 7:30 and medical providers start seeing patients at 8:00.
Custis said veterans are welcome to give her a call so they can have a tour of the facility.
“They can see if this is the best fit for them,” she said. They can call the offices at 254-899-6000.
“The best way is to come out and see our faces, and let us see them.”
Those who are interested in establishing care with the VA Clinic in Copperas Cove don’t need a referral.
Custis said she spoke to a local civic club, and some club members divulged that they haven’t seen a VA or medical provider in more than 10 years.
“One had never seen a provider within the VA and he had gotten out in the 80s,” she said. “We do have the means to help veterans make sure they are eligible.”
Within a matter of minutes, they can help a veteran complete the required eligibility forms to receive care locally in Copperas Cove.
The clinic can also help smooth the way and make some of the “red tape” go away.
“For instance, we had a veteran who needed a handicap placard, and his disability rating was not in his chart. He had gotten out earlier this year. The situation was frustrating to him. He said, ‘I called this number and that number.’ I asked him about his paperwork that showed his disability rating, and he gave it to me. I was able to contact one of the administrative personnel at the main VA campus, who got it right into his chart. It’s good to know that we have those resources. I’ve found so many resources and so many helpful people to make sure that this clinic is successful.”
Custis said that as a longtime resident and now as a civilian, she’s thankful that veterans have a clinic in this area.
Custis said if a veteran has been seen within the Central Texas VA healthcare system, at any of the clinics to include Temple, Brownwood, LaGrange, Cedar Park, Austin, or Waco, they can come in and transfer care immediately.
If they haven’t been seen in the past 36 months within the local VA system, they must complete the eligibility form, which the Copperas Cove clinic submits to Temple to get them enrolled, and then they can get an appointment scheduled and establish care.
Custis said that eligibility process can come through within a day.
Soldiers who are transitioning from the military can have their records sent to the Copperas Cove VA Clinic as part of that process. Those who need specialty care can get referrals to the VA facility in Temple, or perhaps an outside provider if necessary.