The U.S. Army Medical Department Activity for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield celebrated the opening of its new MEDDAC Medical Evaluation Center on Tuesday with an open house.
“We’re really excited about having everything located in one location for the soldiers,” chief of patient affairs Jennifer Gerald said. “Twenty-two of our 27 (physical evaluation board liaison officers) are located in this building.”
The Medical Evaluation Center, at 229 W. Gen. Screven Way, assists soldiers going through the medical evaluation board process, Gerald explained. She said soldiers are referred to a board when their primary-care manager determines they no longer meet the physical fitness requirements to remain on active duty.
Gerald, chief of patient administration Maj. Davina Robinson and Col. Ron Place, commander of Winn Army Community Hospital and Stewart-Hunter MEDDAC, conducted a tour of the new facility for guests, including Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams and Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas.
Thomas asked specific questions about the center, including whether there is adequate parking space. The mayor said he is pleased to see the center provide service to veterans and offered to assist Gerald and her staff any way he can.
As he was led from room to room, Abrams talked with counselors and support specialists. He stopped in one physical evaluation board liaison officer’s office to talk with Spc. Patrick Gray, a soldier assigned to the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team who currently is going through the medical evaluation board process.
“He asked me what I’ve done to prepare for when I leave the Army,” Gray said. “He offered to help me wherever he could but explained there really wasn’t anything he could do to speed up the process.”
Gray said he told his division commander he wants to be a veterinarian and plans to go to Louisiana State University.
Yolanda Dixon, military service coordinator with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs whose office is located at the center, said the process currently is taking 45- 50 days for most soldiers. She said the process is simpler now that the V.A. does all the disability rating, instead of one by the Army followed by another by the V.A. several months later.
“This way, the soldier starts getting a check much sooner,” she said. “It’s a much more streamlined process now. It’s a great program. I really believe in it.”