The Department of Veterans Affairs is proposing to close three hospitals and open new sites as part of an overhaul of the system.
The proposal is already upsetting members of Congress who have VA centers in their districts that are in danger of closing, according to USA Today. This may set up a fight to keep these sites open while a presidential commission considers the VA's recommendations over the next year.
The VA said in its report Monday that it planned to close medical centers in Ohio, New York and Massachusetts, along with many other facilities. The VA also wants to open hundreds of new points of care in order to improve access for hundreds of thousands of veterans to primary care, mental health treatment and other specialty care.
The VA healthcare system serves about 9 million veterans in the U.S., has 171 medical facilities and over 1,000 places for veterans to seek outpatient care.
The VA report, however, says that both the healthcare needs of veterans and where they are seeking treatment are changing, projecting that a shrinking veteran population will have higher proportions of women and racial minorities. The average age of a veteran is also decreasing.
Congress directed the VA to analyze its health system in the VA Mission Act in 2018, and now the VA's recommendations will go to a commission of presidential appointees. The commission will make its own proposals next year.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement that the ''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.
''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.''
Several members of Congress oppose the move, however. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., rallied Sunday outside the VA medical center in Brooklyn to protest the proposal to close it, and tweeted that ''we will not allow the Biden Administration to take away health services from our veterans.''
In addition, South Dakota's congressional delegation came together last week to oppose the potential closing of three clinics in the state.
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