STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
By Ms. STABENOW (for herself and Mr. LEVIN):
S. 1914. A bill to prohibit the closure or realignment of inpatient services at the Aleda E. Lutz Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Saginaw, Michigan, as proposed under the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services initiatives; to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.
Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce legislation that would prevent the closure of the Saginaw Veterans Administration Medical Center in Saginaw, MI.
As of August 2003, there were almost one million veterans in lower Michigan and Northwestern Ohio. These one million veterans are served by four V.A. Medical Centers-Saginaw, Detroit, Ann Arbor and Battle Creek-and 12 Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs), all located in lower Michigan or Toledo, OH.
Regrettably, the Department of Veterans Affairs' Capitol Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) Commission is recommending closing all acute care beds at the Aleda E. Lutz Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Saginaw, MI. The geographic range for the acute services in Saginaw is vast. The facility essentially covers half of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Therefore, closing these inpatient beds in Saginaw would have a devastating impact on veterans who live in Central and Northern Michigan.
If the Saginaw facility were to close, a veteran who lived in Mackinaw City would have to drive 281 miles to the Detroit facility or 272 miles to the Ann Arbor facility for medical care. Under ideal conditions these trips would take six hours instead of the current two hour trip that it would take to reach the existing Saginaw facility. Asking a veteran to go from Mackinaw City to Detroit is like asking a veteran to go from southeast Michigan to Buffalo, New York to get acute care.
How can we ask veterans, many of whom are sick and frail, to travel six hours to get necessary inpatient services? Going through a major illness is tough enough for our veterans. The closing of this hospital would add insult to injury.
This bill seeks to stop this closure and ensure that the thousands of veterans who live in central and northern Michigan have access to the medical services they deserve. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.