New Veterans Affairs Secretary visits center after Hurricane Florence

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Robert Wilkie speaking with staff about their contributions and thanking them for their work on October 1, 2018. (Photo: Basil John/WWAY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Hurricane Florence left it’s mark on the Cape Fear and many veterans had their appointments pushed back. As veterans come in to get their appointments done at the Wilmington Health Care Center, they and medical staff were visited by the new Veteran Affairs Secretary, Robert Wilkie.

“As always, it’s good to be back in Wilmington. But it’s equally proud to stand and talk to the wonderful people who’ve been on watch since we realized that a hurricane was head to our state,” Wilkie said.

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Wilkie toured the facility to see the damage that was done and then came outside to the mobile clinics in the parking lot to speak with and thank the medical staff for helping the veterans. He also said that if for any reason, a veteran can not be helped at this facility, they will help certain veterans get help from outside the system, if necessary.

“If you can’t get it here because of this, we’ll be able to take care of them outside of the system if that’s what’s called for,” Wilkie said.

He also says it’s important to focus on these efforts before more veterans come to the state.

“By 2020, one in nine North Carolinians will be a veteran. So the more robust these facilities are the better they are able to take care of the massive influx of veterans who are coming to the southeast,” Wilkie said.

Even though veterans had to wait sometime for their appointments, some are just glad things are progressing.

“I got a call three four days before the hurricane hit telling me they were going to cancel it, and then I got a call I think last Thursday or Friday saying they had an appointment for today,” veteran Charles Cipolla said.

They say it’s a time they just have to be patient.

“Just give them a break, let them do what they have to do and if it takes a little longer, say thank you when they get it to you,” Cipolla said.

Associate Chief of Staff Richard Trotta says the center had heavy water damage in the back of the facility and water got into air vents. He adds, they are working as fast as possible to make repairs.