Perhaps we can collectively exhale now that the $71.4 million, 67,000-square-foot outpatient clinic has been completed at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center.
The VA is staying in Walla Walla!
To this point, despite promise after promise from the federal government, it seemed naive to not be skeptical
About a decade ago the future of the VA hospital here looked bleak.
In 2004 a federal commission recommended closure of the facility, which hit this community with the sting of a Floyd Mayweather right hook.
But the community rallied to fight the recommendation. Joining the effort were a few leaders from Washington state who had the political muscle to derail the commission’s plan.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., led the charge but former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Spokane, and current U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, have been with her every step of the way. It’s been a team effort.
But, despite the resolve, the process of saving the local VA hospital has been slow and frustrating. Every two steps forward seemed to be followed by a step back.
Promises were made that, for a variety of reasons, were not always kept. Yet, this community kept fighting.
Murray was at the dedication of the outpatient facility in mid-April. The senator, who served on the Veterans Affairs Committee when the VA was targeted for closure, told those at the dedication that it was the community response that got the local VA off the closure list, and spurred the government to add new buildings and new facilities. She now serves as chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, one of the most powerful posts in Congress.
Murray gives credit to this community.
“And that’s really why I’m so proud to be here today,” Murray said. “Because the facility we’re here to open reflects the commitment this country, this community, and all of you have made to our veterans.
“ ... Together, we went from losing this entire facility and having vets drive to Spokane and Seattle for care to taking it off the closure list. ... That is what I call a successful effort.”
We have long said, and firmly believe, the federal government has a responsibility to provide first-class care for veterans.
It’s taken a decade and enough pressure to form a diamond, but with the completion of the outpatient clinic — as well as expanding the current buildings, including the addition of a 36-bed rehab unit — the government is meeting its obligation to veterans.