Over the past two years, I have appreciated the time that many constituents have taken to share with me their strong commitment to protecting and improving the lives of veterans throughout our state and country. I am writing now to ask for your assistance in a matter that is of grave concern to me, the potential closing of three Veterans hospitals: the American Lake, Vancouver, and Walla Walla VA Medical Centers.
In December 2002, Anthony Principi, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, established the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) Commission. The goal of the Commission is to provide recommendations to the Secretary of the VA regarding allocation of capital assets to meet the demand for veteran's health care services over the next several decades. While I agree that it is essential that we devote the appropriate resources to care for our veterans community, I am extremely concerned with a recent proposal to close three of our state's Veterans hospitals.
I have heard from veterans across Washington about many problems in the current VA health care system, including delays in obtaining medical care, and the long distances that many veterans must travel to obtain such care. I am concerned that closing three facilities in our state will only exacerbate these problems.
It is my goal to guarantee that Washington state veterans receive quality and affordable medical care in an appropriate facility, as well as protecting the jobs of those working in these facilities.
To help me in addressing these problems and assist in opposing current proposals to close three of our VA facilities, I am asking you to contact me with your experiences at veterans' facilities throughout the state, specifically the American Lake, Vancouver, and Walla Walla VA Medical Centers. As I have seen from letters sent to me over the years, it is veterans and the loved ones of veterans who are best able to articulate the need for these hospitals.
My goal is to use these letters as evidence when I approach the VA about the need to retain these facilities. I also will be working with the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, which will be testifying on September 29, 2003, at the CARES Commission Public Field Hearing. I hope that you will work with me to protect these important facilities for the veterans community. If you would not like me to share your response with the VA or the CARES Commission, please let me know that as well.
I am profoundly grateful for the service of America's military personnel and for the sacrifices they have made to defend and preserve our great nation. As such, we have an important responsibility to ensure that military personnel and their families are provided benefits and assistance that they have earned and so greatly deserve. Please be assured that I will continue to work with my colleagues on behalf of the many veterans in the State of Washington.
I look forward to working with you on this important issue.