WASHINGTON, D.C. - While applauding plans by the Department of Veterans Affairs to build new V.A. medical facilities in Florida, Nevada and Colorado, John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), took the Bush Administration to task for its recent decision to close facilities crucial to the care of veterans in a number of localities, and for leaving undecided the fates of medical centers in politically sensitive regions.
AFGE represents nearly all non-management V.A. workers (from doctors and nurses to cooks and janitors), at V.A. medical facilities.
"We are happy to hear that the Administration plans to build new state-of-the-art facilities in three battleground states," Gage said. "However, dozens of V.A. medical centers across the country must continue to operate under threats of closure, and others are targeted for loss of critical patient services. For instance, look at the situation facing the Cleveland-area vets suffering combat-related psychiatric trauma. The hospital that serves them in a peaceful, bucolic setting will be no more, and they'll be sent to Cleveland's inner city for therapy. Seven rural medical centers are left in limbo for the political season. Will their vets be made to seek care hundreds of miles from home once the election is over?"
"Plans for veterans requiring long-term care remain a mystery," Gage continued. "While the V.A . touts a projected decline in the veteran population, it fails to account for the fact that vets, like the rest of us, are living longer, and will require more intensive services and nursing home beds as they move into old age. Current projections also fail to take into account the needs of the future veterans now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. So far, some 20,000 soldiers, sailors and marines returning from these theaters have requested medical benefits or services from the Department of Veterans Affairs."