VA could close 3 hospitals, open other facilities in a nationwide overhaul of its system

The proposal to shut down VA hospitals in Ohio, Massachusetts and Brooklyn, N.Y., is facing opposiiton in Congress.

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President Joe Biden watches therapist Josh Geering demonstrate a new wheelchair that lifts during a tour at a VA Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, earlier this month during which he said veterans are the “backbone, the spine, the sinew” of the nation.

President Joe Biden watches therapist Josh Geering demonstrate a new wheelchair that lifts during a tour at a VA Clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, earlier this month during which he said veterans are the “backbone, the spine, the sinew” of the nation.

Yffy Yossifor / Star-Telegram via AP

WASHINGTON — The federal Department of Veterans Affairs wants to close three hospitals in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio along with dozens of other facilitie as part of a system overhaul that also would include opening new facilities to expand care for veterans.

The proposal is roiling members of Congress who represent areas where facilities could be closed, setting up a fight to keep them open as a presidential commission considers the recommendations over the next year.

In a new report, the VA said it would close the three medical centers and provide hundreds of what it describes as new points of care that it said would improve access to primary care, mental health treatment and other specialty care for hundreds of thousands of veterans.

The moves would be a major overhaul of a system serving about nine million veteran enrollees nationwide. The VA health system has 171 medical facilities and more than 1,000 places where veterans can receive outpatient care.

But the healthcare needs of veterans and where they’re going for that are changing, according to the report, which projects that a shrinking veteran population will be younger and have higher proportions of women and racial minorities. The VA expects veteran populations to drop by as much as a third in the Northeast and for greater number of veterans to live on the southern Atlantic Coast and in the South and the Southwest.

The VA’s recommendations will go to a commission of presidential appointees, which will make its own proposals next year.

U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., and the entire Congressional delegation from South Dakota are among those opposing the closing plans.

“We will not allow the Biden Administration to take away health services from our veterans,” Malliotakis tweeted.

The medical centers the VA wants to close are in Brooklyn, N.Y., Northampton, Mass., and Chillicothe, Ohio. Services they now provided would be shifted to other VA facilities.

A backlog of improvements needed at the three medical centers slated to be closed would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the VA.

The VA said it would expand other services, adding dozens more nursing homes and residential rehabilitation centers. It also would add more VA-operated healthcare centers capable of invasive procedures and ambulatory surgeries.

If all of the changes are adopted, the VA said it expects to add a net total of 80 new facilities. The cost of those changes wasn’t given.

Read more at USA Today.

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