Murray meeting to focus on impact on vets

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

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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.

Murray, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, requested the field hearing last month during a meeting of the Senate committee.

The hearing will focus on the potential impact to health care for Washington state veterans from recommendations by the federal Capital Asset Realignment for Enchanced Services commission.

Among the proposals of the commission is the recommendation that the Jonathan M.

Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center be closed and, where appropriate, acute inpatient medicine, psychiatric care and nursing home care be contracted out.

Outpatient services would be maintained, but the service would be moved off the VA campus on Poplar Street to an unspecified location.

The commission has sent its final report to VA Secretary Anthony Principi, who has not yet issued a decision on the recommendations.

After Prinicipi issues his decision, Congress will have 60 days to review and comment on the recommendations.

Sen. Murray's spokeswoman, Alex Glass, said Monday's hearing will begin with a statement by Murray, followed by testimony from witnesses, who will be grouped into three panels.

Each witness will have five minutes to speak, after which there will be a period for questions and answers.

The hearing will be open to the public, but testimony will be limited to the invited witnesses.

WITNESS LIST

Those scheduled to testify at Monday's field hearing of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs will be:

First panel _ Dr. Leslie Burger, director the the regional Veterans Adminstration network; John King, director of the state of Washington's Department of Veterans Affairs; and Jim Willis, director of the state of Oregon's Department of Veterans Affairs.

Burger will be accompanied by Bruce Stewart, acting director of the Walla Walla VA facility.

Second panel _ Ron Fry, Washington state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars; Jim Grisson, national secretary of the Vietnam Veterans of America; Lanny Myers, Washington state commander for the American Legion; Antone Minthorn, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and Gary Pearson, president of the northwest chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Pearson will be accompanied by Craig Stewart, senior national service officer.

Third panel _ Greg Tompkins, Walla Walla County commission chairman; Jerry Cummins, Walla Walla City Council member; Jim Kuntz, Port of Walla Walla executive director; Dale Gehrke, chief steward, American Federation of Government Employees, Local 181, and Morre Dean, president, Adventist Hospital.

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