VA panel adds another local member

Leo Stewart will represent the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

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The Local Advisory Panel will have one more member than originally expected when the group meets this week.

Although 10 members initially comprised the federally appointed panel, efforts to lobby for more local representation procured another seat at the table.

Leo Stewart will represent the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

The job of the Local Advisory Panel, appointed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is to act as an advisory group to project contractor, PricewaterhouseCoopers .

In turn, the contractor's job is to use the information provided by the panel to develop options for the facility and health care. Those will be presented to VA Secretary Jim Nicholson, who is expected to select which options should be further studied before a final decision.

Advocates for the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center had rallied as far back as last year for representation on the panel from at least two other local groups _ elected officials and the American Federation of Government Employees Local 181 _ to no avail.

But the addition of Stewart means that six of the 11 people have some connection to Walla Walla's VA medical center.

Members of the panel, their affiliation and their membership representation are:

  • Chairman Tim Williams, director of the VA Puget Sound Health Care System; network director or equivalent.
  • Alan Prentiss, chief of staff of the Spokane VA medical center; VA clinician.
  • Duane Cole, Walla Walla city manager; local government representative.
  • Morre Dean, president of Walla Walla General Hospital; community health-care representative.
  • Marilyn Galusha, director of nursing education at Walla Walla Community College; health-care education representative.
  • Gail Weaver, vice president for Continuum of Care at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital; local (Yakima) community health-care representative.
  • John King, director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs; state VA representative.
  • Faye Lyon, Disabled American Veterans, Tri-Cities; local veteran service organization representative.
  • Jim Kuntz, executive director, Port of Walla Walla; local business representative.
  • Alice Bailey Thomsen, commander of the Blue Mountain Veterans Coalition; coalition representative.
  • Leo Stewart, vice chair, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; tribe representative.

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