McNerney tries to keep open V.A. hospital

August 11, 2008 8:51:17 PM PDT
The government's move to shut down a Veterans Affairs Hospital in Livermore is running into opposition from veterans and some high level supporters. They want to change the hospital's mission, to specialize in returning veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bob Filner (D) of Chula Vista, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, came to Livermore at the request of East Bay Congressman Jerry McNerney (D) of California's 11th District. McNerney sits on that committee and together they both lit into the V.A. accusing the agency of worrying more about saving money, than saving lives.

In front of the V.A. Hospital in Livermore, patients boarded a bus to the V.A. Hospital in Palo Alto making the hour long ride each way because the VA is closing its Livermore facility a little at a time.

"Like upstairs the fifth floor is gone, parts of the four floor is gone," said a veteran.

The V.A.'s goal is to build another hospital in the San Joaquin Valley and eventually lease out the Livermore property with its hospital and its expansive lawns.

"And the whole idea of shutting this place down, what do you guys think about that?" asked Congressman McNerney to a group of veterans.

Congressman McNerney, who represents parts of Livermore and much of the surrounding area, is pushing to keep the Livermore facility in the hands of the V.A. On Monday, he brought the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee to see it.

"The vision we have is to great veterans that are just coming back from Iraq or from conflict areas," said Congressman McNerney.

And it wouldn't be just for veterans who ask for help, but every veteran returning from combat, would come to a place like this to be evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

"We need to have a mandatory evaluation of every person that's coming back as part of their active duty so there is no stigma about it," said Chairman Filner.

At a veteran's hall in Stockton Monday afternoon, Filner and McNerney laid out their plan.

"What more beautiful place one can you have for healing and two you've got all the medical resources there," said Chairman Filner.

And both congressmen blasted the V.A. for what they said was a practice of putting financial concerns ahead of patients needs.

"The veterans have been ignored and pushed aside for too damn long," said McNerney.

"So, Mr. administrator in Palo Alto, we're not going to let Livermore close," said Filner.

The assistant administrator for the V.A. region that includes Livermore and Palo Alto told ABC7, keeping the Livermore facility open is McNerney's idea.

"That's something that they have to look at themselves, I can't give you the V.A.'s answer on that," said Thomas Fitzgerald, from the Palo Alto V.A. Hospital.
"What do you think of the way they characterized the V.A. at this hearing," asked ABC7's Mark Matthews.
"Again it's their right to bring up those issues," said Fitzgerald.
"But what did you think of that? Was the V.A. being fairly treated?" asked Matthews.
"I have no comment on that," said Fitzgerald.

A spokeswoman for the V.A. told ABC7, if Congress wants to keep the Livermore facility, no problem.

However, so far Congressman McNerney and Filner haven't been able to push through all that they want even though Democrats control the House.

ABC7's Matthews asked Filner how many times he has been able to sit down with Speaker Pelosi to talk one-on-one about what his committee wants. His answer was, it hasn't happened, not once in two years. Speaker Pelosi's office is checking that out and ABC7 is waiting to hear back from them.

Read Mark Matthew's Blog: click here


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