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Veterans: VA health care proposal should be discarded

Number crunchers in Washington, D.C., appear to have decided West Virginia’s military veterans can do with less or less-accessible health care as provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Much of the change they are proposing focuses on projections rather than the tens of thousands of veterans living in the Mountain State now.

Certainly change IS necessary to best use taxpayer dollars and give veterans the health care they were promised. But it is also an astounding admission by bureaucrats that they are not particularly worried about what happens to those veterans who will need medical care in the very near future.

Among the changes proposed in the VA’s Asset and Infrastructure Review are reducing services at the state’s three VA hospitals and limiting access to other services. Some facilities would close. It appears as though those concocting the proposal could not be bothered to discuss it with West Virginia officials.

“To say I was surprised would be an understatement,” said Edward “Ted” Diaz, secretary of the state Department of Veterans Assistance. “I couldn’t believe what I was reading. My first thought as soon as I read off all of the assessments for West Virginia was they were, for lack of a better term, gutting the services that the VA provides in West Virginia.”

Our representatives in Washington were rightly confused, too.

“I guess they’ve never been to Franklin and the eastern mountains of West Virginia,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said our state is in need of perhaps a disproportionate number of VA medical centers “because we have such a high concentration of veterans.”

Precisely. West Virginians are historically more willing to serve their country in the military than almost any other state. And we do not live in a place that makes it easy to travel from one far-flung point to the next.

Meanwhile, there is also the matter of the staff working at the facilities the VA hopes to close. Those men and women have skills not found at many other hospitals. Will a veteran receive the care he or she needs without them?

Officials must toss this proposal in the trash and start over. If they do not, the federal government will have once again disregarded the needs of rural Appalachians — even those who were willing to give their lives for the rest of us.

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