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“It’s ludicrous,” he said. “We still don’t have a hospital.”

Some veterans from Brevard and elsewhere in Central Florida now have to travel to Tampa or West Palm Beach VA medical centers for treatment. The Lake Nona campus is just 37 miles from Cocoa and 62 miles from Melbourne.

“I used to go to Palm Beach,” said Rafael Rodriguez, a retired Army veteran from Palm Bay. “When the economy went bad and gas prices skyrocketed I stopped doing that.”

Rodriguez, who suffers from lung and back problems, said the VA Viera Outpatient Clinic now has a lung specialist, which also keeps him from having to go to West Palm Beach for treatment.

Rodriquez, 64, who volunteers as a service officer at a Disabled American Veterans in Melbourne, said the new hospital will be very convenient for him and many other veterans in Brevard.

“The opening of that hospital is going to ease up the workload here,” he said of the Viera clinic. “I’m looking forward to it. It will be great.”

Partsof the campus are already completed and in use, including a rehabilitation center for homeless veterans, a chapel and the Community Living Center, a 120-bed nursing home and rehabilitation center. A separate project on the campus, the Central Florida Memorial Park, was dedicated on Veterans Day.

Patients have been moved into the Community Living Center.

The completed portions highlight design features far more pleasant than utilitarian VA facilities built in the 20th century.

In some areas gentle curves have replaced flat walls. Nurses’ work stations are out of view from hallways. The atrium lobby features live palm trees.

A warehouse on the campus is connected to the hospital through a tunnel allowing supplies to be moved without ever coming into view of patients and visitors or disrupting traffic flow in the main corridors. Covered walkways connect buildings, most of which give a view of a lake in a conservation area on the south side of the campus. Gardens within the buildings have outdoor seating areas.

“This is moving away from that institutional stuff,” Tucker said. “Patients and their families can get out of the institution and relax out here. You have to have this pleasant environment.”

In the Community Living Center rehabilitation wing, Laurie Brown proudly shows off equipment with which she helps veterans with physical therapy.

“Our veterans are getting the most state-of-the-art equipment,” Brown said. “It is much better than what we ever had in the private sector.”

Brown said that though she has many family members who served in the military, she had not fully grasped the sacrifices veterans make until she started working for the VA.

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