Candidates make VA a campaign issue

Larry Kissell, Democratic congressional candidate for the 8th District, said, "We have a moral obligation to take care of veterans. Anyone that backs away from that is not honoring that obligation."

Then on Saturday, a representative from Sen. Elizabeth Dole's office, Bob Meek, told a group of motorcycle-riding veterans, Rolling Thunder, that "veterans have no better friend than John McCain and Elizabeth Dole." Both Dole and McCain are running for office this year — McCain for the presidency and Dole for her seat in the U.S. Senate.

"You have a choice this November and it is clear who supports veterans," Meek said.

The VA announced it was closing the emergency department, in-patient beds and surgical units at the Salisbury hospital on Sept. 19.

The VA wants to boost the hospital's mental health and long-term care services. Adams said there is no timeline for the closure. About 145 employees will be affected by the closure of the units.

Dole, in an editorial board forum with the Independent Tribune, said she has worked with Democrats on bills that benefitted veterans, namely Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a bill that allows parents and spouses of service members to take up to six months off from work and care for their injured relatives.

"Just get the job done," she said, when asked if it was fair to politicize the issue of veterans health care.
Dole has asked the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. James Peake, to halt any changes in service at the Salisbury VA hospital.

"The plan to contract-out these services to regional hospitals raises many valid questions," Dole wrote in a letter to Peake. "If there is any amount of hesistancy in answering these questions, I implore the VA to re-examine its options."

No word has come from the VA about service changes.

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