Construction is underway for a new health care clinic for veterans in Clarksville, which is badly needed. The current clinic's space is so tight that closets and bathrooms have been converted into workspaces.
But the VA is saying already that its new facility will be too small to fit the growing number of patients in the area.
Tennessee Valley VA officials began the process several years ago to build a new facility for its primary care and mental health clinic. When completed in 2018, the building will be about three and a half times the size of the current clinic.
The problem is that the number of veterans in Montgomery County, which is home to Fort Campbell, has also grown substantially: 20 percent over the past five years, according to the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services. So at a recent town hall meeting in Clarksville, VA officials said even the new facility won't be big enough.
Sherry Pickering, who leads the the independent Montgomery County Veterans Coalition, was not surprised.
"This has been the an ongoing problem," she says. "It's not like any of that is new information."
What is new information is how the VA will handle this predicament: In addition to the new facility opening in 2018, the VA will lease a second location for extra space. It might even keep its current facility functioning as a third site, says Robert Lim, who oversees primary care for the Tennessee Valley VA and used to run the Clarksville clinic.
Pickering says veterans have mixed feelings about this.
"Are they glad that they're looking for something? Well, sure, absolutely," she says. "Is it the fix they want? No, I don't think it's the fix the VA wants."
This is true, Lim says. He knows it's not the most practical solution, but the VA will take what it can get.
"If we insisted on going for the bigger spaces, we know it would take a whole lot longer," he says.
And right now, it needs more space as soon as possible.