VA Medical Centers Slated for Closure; Rebuilding Under New Infrastructure Plan

VA Medical Centers Slated for Closure; Rebuilding Under New Infrastructure Plan

Veterans Affairs medical centers in 21 states will close or be remade under a nearly $2 trillion infrastructure overhaul announced on Monday.

Furthermore, 14 new large VA hospitals and 140 multi-specialty community clinics will be constructed. The department would add 80 new medical buildings to its current inventory of more than 1,200.

These proposals would radically transform the VA's presence in America in coming years and affect millions of veterans who seek medical care and hundreds of thousands of VA employees.

Before moving forward, the plan needs the blessings of an independent commission of veterans' advocates and Congress, which could take years.

Denis McDonough, VA secretary, hailed the changes as a critical rethink of VA facilities and how they deliver care.

In his view, the company will change to a new infrastructure or a different structure that is in line with how healthcare has evolved, meets the needs of that market, and reinforces the research and educational mission. “Most of all, we'll make sure vets who live anywhere can get the world-class care when they need it."

In 2018, as part of a review modeled on the closure rounds of military bases during the 1980s and 1990s, Congress mandated a reevaluation of VA's nationwide infrastructure. 17 medical centers would close in 12 states under McDonough's plan.

There are three sites in New York state (Castle Point, Manhattan, and Brooklyn), two in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia and Coatesville), two in Virginia (Hampton and Salem), and two in South Dakota (Fort Meade and Hot Springs).

Other places to close:

  • VA Medical Center of Central Western Massachusetts;
  • VA Medical Center of Dublin, Georgia;
  • Chillicothe VA Medical Center in Ohio;
  • VA Medical Center of Fort Wayne in Indiana;
  • Battle Creek VA Medical Center in Michigan;
  • the Alexandria VA Medical Center in Louisiana;
  • the Muskogee VA Medical Center in Oklahoma;
  • as well as the Palo Alto Livermore VA Medical Center in California.

Seven of the 17 sites recommended for closure are in the Northeast, where veterans (and the overall population) have declined.

Small inpatient and outpatient clinics will be built in those areas, or VA medical centers will be constructed in nearby communities to replace those services.

The plan calls for the building of two new major medical facilities in Virginia (Newport News and Norfolk) and Georgia (Macon and Gwinnett County), along with a new facility in New Jersey (Camden) to replace some of the New York sites.

Here's the new construction list:

  • Medical center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania;
  • Hospital in Huntsville, Alabama;
  • Medical center in Summerville, South Carolina.
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan;
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado; and Summerville, South Carolina.
  • Everett, Washington; and New York City.
  • Medical center in Anthem, Arizona;
  • Facility in Rapid City, South Dakota.

There will be 18 medical centers rebuilt either on their existing land or at a nearby new location. Three New York state metro areas appear on that list (Albany, Buffalo, and St. Albans) and several other major cities, including Miami, Atlanta, Phoenix, Indianapolis, San Antonio, and Washington, D.C.

The following replacement sites are also available:

  • VAMC in Bedford, Massachusetts;
  • Wilkes-Barre VAMC, Pennsylvania;
  • Beckley VAMC in West Virginia;
  • Roanoke VAMC in Virginia;
  • Durham VAMC in North Carolina;
  • Tuskegee VAMC in Alabama;
  • Hines VAMC in Illinois;
  • Shreveport VAMC in Louisiana;
  • Reno VAMC in Nevada.

McConough has said the plan wouldn't displace any VA workers or patients in the short-term and that efforts will be made to minimize disruption in the long term.

The plan also calls for numerous changes to VA staff pay and benefits to increase retention.

According to VA officials, the complete recommendations would cost about $98 billion more over the next 30 years than simply maintaining current infrastructure, and $41 billion more than modernization is projected to cost.

Congress will debate these costs - and the impact of losing major medical centers in critical communities - over the next year.

In their initial reaction to the plan, lawmakers on Monday pledged to scrutinize it more closely in the months to come.

VA's infrastructure has been slowly crumbling for too long. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., and ranking member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, said the veterans deserve better.

"Many milestones and difficult decisions lie ahead, but maintaining the status quo is not an option."

Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., warned officials would "harm veterans' access to care" by closing three Community-Based Outpatient Clinics. In his early assessment, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mont., adopted a more aggressive stance without offering any specific criticism.

I will not sign any legislation that kneecaps our veterans' healthcare. "I will fight tooth and nail against anything that looks to reduce VA care or put our veterans at a disadvantage."

On the VA site, you can read all the recommendations.