Federal VA recommends downsizing W.Va. health care; Sen. Manchin holds session in opposition

Federal VA recommends downsizing W.Va. health care; Sen. Manchin holds session in opposition
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 11:01 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A report released by The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs on March 14 recommended some big changes for the state’s health care system.

Those sweeping changes would mean smaller hospitals for thousands of military who depend on veteran’s hospitals.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., conducted a session where state leaders and West Virginia veterans in opposition of the federal recommendations discussed what this downsize would mean.

“The AIR Commission is suppose to modernize the VA, and so far what we have found is that it has unfairly targeted rural areas,” Manchin said.

Retired Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the man who led the West Virginia National Guard during much of the coronavirus pandemic, got on the call and expressed his concern with how these recommendations would play out.

“I don’t think people at the national level understand how important our veterans hospitals are and part of their staff are to part of our state emergency response,” Hoyer said.

The panel, made up of everyone from military to government to education officials, weighed in on the downsizing plan that would convert emergency departments into urgent care centers.

“Correct, it will be a very large urgent care,” said Ted Diaz, the Cabinet Secretary for the West Virginia Department of Veterans Affairs. “Removing in-patient care, removing in-patient surgery, removing out-patient surgery, these are services that our veterans rely on.”

Surgery and other services would be contracted out with private hospitals. If those services are not available locally, though, veterans may have to travel out of state for health care.

During the session, officials said in the session that the study done by the federal VA was largely based on population decline, but officials stressed how vital these hospitals are for rural, mountainous communities and the number of veterans who live in West Virginia.

The recommendation period will last about a year, according to Manchin, during which there will be debate about what closes down and where.

Here is WSAZ’s previous coverage on the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) report released on March 14.

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