Stories for April 2004

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Thursday, April 15

Officials worry about fate of VA buildings

What will happen to the historic buildings? Who will pay to clean up the asbestos and lead paint?

The 28 buildings on the grounds of the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center are a historic boon and financial bane.Dating back to the cavalry days of Fort Walla Walla, the buildings are part of a celebrated piece of the communit

VA closure? At what local cost?

A VA facility not only serves medical, social-service functions, but also plays an economic role in surrounding communities.

In Washington state, hospitals are as multifunctional as Swiss army knives.Apart from being round-the-clock providers of health care and community services, they contribute heftily to local economies as major employers and purchasers.The notion of closing

Common ground: Political competitors work for VA

Independent commissions that are formed to make recommendations on the closure of government facilities are supposed to take politics out of the process.Often, it has the opposite effect.That's certainly the case in Eastern Washington. But not in the usua

It's outrageous VA doesn't have specific plans for medical care

The CARES commission recommends the VA must ensure viable medical alternatives are available in the community before the VA Medical Center is closed. We have doubts that will ever happen.

Trust us.That's what Department of Veterans Affairs officials have been saying as they consider acting on a recommendation by the CARES commission to close the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Medical Center as a full-service hospital.Officials say _ over

Local officials: Streamline without job, service cuts

A master plan for the 84-acre site could benefit the veterans and the community, a local official says.

Officers quarters. Long-term housing. Lodging for homeless veterans.Walla Walla officials have numerous ideas about what to do with the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center.But they say no one has asked for them.

Wednesday, April 14

CARES official: Review is difficult

In 2003, 16 people were appointed to a federal commission whose feel-good name belied its daunting task.Members of the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services, or CARES commission, were chosen by the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs

A Look at the CARES commission

Members of the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services commission are:

Two facilities avoid chopping block

Originally targeted for changes along with Walla Walla, the American Lake and Vancouver sites have been taken off the list.

First there were three.When word came last July that the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center was facing closure, Walla Walla was not alone. Similar cuts were proposed at VA facilities in Vancouver, Wash., and American Lake, nea

THE CARES COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION

The Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services commission recommends: Closure of Walla Walla's VA hospital and where appropriate contracting for acute inpatient medicine and psychiatry care and nursing home care in the Walla Walla geographic area.

Tuesday, April 13

VA needs OK from Congress to downgrade local hospital

A 1987 provision approved by Congess permanently blocks the VA's authority to change the mission of the local VA Medical Center from a full-service hospital. It is still the law.

The Department of Veterans Affairs would be breaking the law if it downgrades the full-service Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center to an outpatient clinic.In 1987, Congress approved legislation, which was part of that year's su

Hospitals can absorb some VA patients

Local hospital officials say they can take on the VA's medical patients, but there is no inpatient psychiatric care available here.

A federal commission's proposal to end inpatient care at Walla Walla's veterans hospital offers few recommendations about where to send patients who fill the hospital's 66 beds.Officials with Walla Walla's two private hospitals say their facilities can ta

Officials: Ambulance service to suffer with closure

Last year, the VA paid the city about $200,000, one-sixth of the service's total yearly revenue of about $1.3 million.

Closing the inpatient hospital at Walla Walla's Veterans Administration Medical Center likely will reduce the city's already ailing ambulance revenues, officials said.Veterans commonly use the service. The Medical Center pays for runs related to care at i

Rural hospitals ready to fill any gaps

A Washington State Hospital Association spokeswoman says closure of the VA facility would have a significant impact on the community.

The proposed closure of the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center could be a mixed blessing for area rural hospitals.Southeast Washington's public hospitals in Dayton and Pomeroy could find some financial relief to their funding

VA hearing draws sharp words

The fight over the fate of Walla Walla's veterans hospital took on a new edge Monday.After a sometimes-feisty field hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., vowed to take the battle back to Washington, D.C., to get the

Monday, April 12

Veterans' priority groups

In 1996, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs made changes in eligibility for VA medical care. The law establishes seven enrollment priority groups and requires certain veterans to enroll in the VA health-care system. They will be provided hospital and

Vets: Will we get care we need?

Jim ``Woody'' Wodehouse says a substance abuse program affiliated with the local VA hospital ``saved (his) life.''``If it hadn't been here for me, I don't think I'd be here physically, let alone mentally,'' said Wodehouse, 60, who turned to the VA hospita

Sunday, April 11

The VA fight: Issues, no answers

Bright blue signs in the vacant corridor point the way.Arrows on two signs point left to an outpatient clinic, various therapy rooms and even a theater.A second sign, pointing right, directs visitors to ``Building 86 _ Hospital.''While those directions ar

Can they save the VA?

In 1987, U.S. Rep. Tom Foley was House majority leader. When officials at the VA threatened to close down the Walla Walla VA medical center, Foley squashed the move. Does anyone have the political clo

ANALYSISIn 1987 the top officials at the U.S. Veterans Administration were intent on closing Walla Walla's VA medical center.Tom Foley was intent on saving it.Foley won. He had the political muscle.

Murray meeting to focus on impact on vets

Fifteen witnesses will testify on the effect of the proposed closure.

Fifteen witnesses are scheduled to appear Monday at a field hearing on veterans health care chaired by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.The hearing will begin at 1 p.m. at the Walla Walla Community College conference center.

Friday, April 9

Vets skeptical of VA assurances

The VA's acting undersecretary says there will be `absolutely no cuts' to vets' health care.

Cheers and jeers greeted visiting federal officials who were in Walla Walla Thursday to talk about veterans' health care.The visit to the Walla Walla veterans hospital drew a standing-room-only crowd to the meeting with Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., an