This story was originally published by The Star-Herald in August 2016.

By Joseph Brown

Providing the best care for local veterans has become a common practice in Kosciusko.

Kosciusko VA Primary Care Center scored some of its highest ratings, nearly doubling the national average in a survey among veterans.

“This survey is grading us against places that are perceived to have a much better care and service, but it showed that we are a step ahead of the national average, Kosciusko VA administrator Kelly Mitchell said. “Right here in Kosciusko, Mississippi, you can get as good or better care than anywhere else in the country.”

The Kosciusko Clinic topped the national average in ease of access, communication, comprehensiveness, office staff, self-management support and care coordination. According to the survey, 56.3 percent of the veterans surveyed said they saw their provider within 15 minutes of their appointment, toppling the national average of 36 percent.

The Kosciusko VA Clinic was also rated with a 94.4 percent approval rating, while the national average is 66.5 percent. The survey also stated that 90.2 percent of the veterans surveyed said they got the service they needed and the service was easy to get.

“The biggest cause to the high ratings is our amazing staff,” Mitchell said. “We have providers that really care about the veterans and have known them for most of their lives. There are certain issues unique to veterans and my staff is trained to handle that.”

The Kosciusko VA also topped the national average in quality of care in behavioral health screening, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, cancer prevention and tobacco. It also showed record low wait times with an 18-minute wait for scheduled appointments upon arrival time and 17 minutes from scheduled appointment time. The wait time for established veterans was 3.2 days and 3.5 days for new veterans, while same-day urgent appointment received a 66 percent rating.

“It is a great benefit to the local veteran that doesn’t have to travel to Jackson for their healthcare,” Mitchell said. “The VA in Jackson is always packed, so you’re always waiting and you are seeing doctors and nurses that may or may not know who you are, but the experience that you get here is far better.”

The Kosciusko VA Primary Care Center is one of seven community-based outpatient clinics in Mississippi under the wing of the G.V. Montgomery Medical Center in Jackson. The clinic has 1,864 veterans enrolled and seeks to add 186 new veterans by the end of the year.

“The goal of the VA is to not only get veterans care into local communities, but also to use it as a recruiting tool to get veterans into the system,” Mitchell noted.