WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to close three hospitals as part of a system overhaul that includes opening new facilities to expand care for veterans.
The proposal already is roiling members of Congress who represent areas where facilities could close, setting up a fight to keep them open as a presidential commission considers the recommendations over the next year.
In a report released Monday, the VA said it would close medical centers in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio along with dozens of other facilities. At the same time, it wants to open hundreds of new points of care it said will improve access to primary care, mental health treatment and other specialty care for hundreds of thousands of veterans.
It would represent a major overhaul of a system serving about 9 million veteran enrollees spread across the country. The VA health care system has 171 medical facilities and more than 1,000 places where veterans can seek outpatient care.
But the health care needs of veterans, and where they’re seeking it out, are changing, according to the report. It projects that a shrinking veteran population will have higher proportions of women and racial minorities. The average veteran also is getting younger.
In 2018, Congress directed the VA to analyze its healthcare system in the VA Mission Act. The VA's recommendations now go to a commission of presidential appointees, which will make its own proposals next year.
“VA came to these recommendations by asking ourselves one question above all else: what’s best for the Veterans we serve? Because that is our number one goal, today and every day. That’s what our Asset and Infrastructure Review recommendations are all about,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a prepared statement. “We’ve spent the last several weeks and months communicating about this with VA employees, union partners, state partners, Veteran service organizations, Congress, and more. I’m continuing to consult with our unions, and will do so moving forward, because I so appreciate the strong partnership we have with them.”
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., rallied outside of the VA medical center in Brooklyn on Sunday in protest against the proposal to close it. The Congressional delegation from South Dakota last week banded together to oppose the closure of three clinics in their state....
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