PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WYMT) - Many veterans rely on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs for medical care, but officials with a local veterans group say service men and women in Eastern Kentucky have to travel too far to receive that care.
They are circulating a petition to get the VA to open a hospital inside the fifth congressional district.
The petition is being pushed by a group called "Citizens for Veterans' Healthcare."
The group's chairwoman says they've received more than 53,000 signatures so far.
"The people we've talked to are very much in support of it. They realize the sacrifices our veterans have made, and the cost it has come, and they certainly feel that they deserve a hospital close to home," said chairwoman Khrys Varney.
Group members say veterans have to travel to Huntington or Lexington to receive treatment at VA hospitals.
For some, they say, that's just too far away.
"You know when you have to drive three hours, an 85, 90 year old, it's just hard on you. It's hard on the body. It's hard on me and I'm only 65," said Paul Edwards, Commander of V.F.W. Post 5839 in Prestonsburg.
Organization officials say more than 43,000 veterans live in the fifth congressional district.
They claim the vets are being under-served in the region.
"I realize that they can go to Huntington, they can go to Lexington, but the hardship on them to do that is so extraordinary that, you know I've even heard stories of veterans not going for healthcare, it's so hard," said Varney.
Spokesmen for the group say several county and city officials have passed resolutions in support of a new VA hospital.
State lawmakers, including House Speaker Greg Stumbo, have also voiced their support, but ultimately, the decision rests with the Veterans Health Administration.
Citizens for Veterans' Healthcare is still collecting signatures for its petition at www.vahospitalpetition.com.