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Letter to The Honorable R. James Nicholson, Secretary, United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Senator Clinton Urges VA Secretary to Consider Veterans Concerns Before Making Final Decision for Canandaigua VA Hospital

Clinton Advocates Creation of Community Advisory Panel to Bridge Gap Between VA and Local Veterans

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton today urged Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, to carefully consider the opinions of local veterans and community leaders before he makes a final decision in the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) process for the Canandaigua VA Medical Center. In a letter, Senator Clinton called on Secretary Nicholson to establish a permanent community advisory panel to serve as a bridge between the Canandaigua community and the VA, and sought clarification on when a final decision would be made. Senator Clinton also urged him to consider the preference of many local stakeholders for Business Plan Option (BPO) 9 over that of plans 2 and 7.

During the last CARES meeting held on April 10, 2007, the Local Advisory Panel (LAP) voted to recommend BPO's 2 and 7, which would relocate nursing home, domiciliary and outpatient services to the eastern part of the golf course and the Canandaigua Academy parcel, respectively. However, this recommendation was made amid strong objections from a number of community stakeholders who preferred BPO 9, which would place nursing home and domiciliary services in courtyard 2 and would put outpatient services in renovated buildings in the historic core of the beautiful Canandaigua campus.

"I have been fighting since CARES began to keep the Canandaigua VA Hospital open and to push back against proposed cuts and service reductions. Earlier this year the VA prematurely eliminated Canandaigua's acute psychiatric inpatient beds in the absence of any final plan for the whole Canandaigua facility and without adequately consulting the very veterans that would be most affected," Senator Clinton said. "The plans that were recommended in April by the LAP will have a significant long-term impact on how services and care will be provided to our veterans. These proposed changes will directly affect our Central and Western New York veterans, and so I urge Secretary Nicholson to give their views and concerns his full consideration as he weighs the future of this facility."

"You can see by the drastic differences of opinion in the preferred BPO's between the LAP and many in the veterans community that there clearly has been a breakdown in communication, and some confusion remains as to how the LAP voted to arrive at their recommendations. Sustained dialogue between local veterans and the VA is essential to meeting our commitment of providing veterans with high quality health care at VA facilities. The establishment of a permanent community advisory panel in Canandaigua would be helpful in bridging this communication gap."

Senator Clinton first called for a permanent community advisory panel during her testimony at the final Canandaigua CARES meeting on April 10th.

Senator Clinton has fought for New York's veterans throughout the CARES process. She has repeatedly called on and met with former VA Secretary Anthony Principi as well as current VA Secretary Nicholson to reiterate her serious concerns regarding the VA CARES initiative and the process by which the VA decided to make changes in New York's VA facilities.

A copy of Senator Clinton's letter is attached -

August 2, 2007

The Honorable R. James Nicholson
Secretary
United States Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, N.W.
Washington , D.C. 20420

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I write with great interest regarding the future of the Canandaigua VA Medical Center (VAMC) as the CARES process for this facility moves into the final decision making stages. As you know, I believe that it is our national responsibility to provide veterans with access to world-class health care at VA facilities. To meet this objective - at Canandaigua and elsewhere - it is critically important that the concerns of the local community and area veterans be heard and heeded. For these reasons, I ask that you clarify when a final decision may be announced with regard to Canandaigua; that you consider establishing a permanent community advisory panel to serve as a bridge between the Canandaigua community and the VA, as I first called for in my testimony to the LAP on April 10; and that you fully consider the preference of many community stakeholders for business plan option 9 over business plan options 2 and 7.

At the fourth Local Advisory Panel (LAP) meeting on April 10, the LAP voted to recommend business plan options 2 and 7, which would relocate nursing home, domiciliary and outpatient services to the eastern part of the golf course and the Canandaigua Academy parcel, respectively. These recommendations were made despite the expression of support by many community leaders for business plan option 9, which would place nursing home and domiciliary services in courtyard 2 and would put outpatient services in renovated buildings in the historic core of the beautiful Canandaigua campus.

I am particularly concerned that there seems to have been confusion regarding the process by which the LAP voted to recommend options 2 and 7, and that many community stakeholders have expressed concern that their views are not accurately reflected in the LAP's recommendations.

I appreciate your willingness to work with me throughout the CARES process and look forward to clarification of when a final decision for Canandaigua might be made. Further, I look forward to your feedback regarding the potential establishment of a permanent community advisory panel for Canandaigua; and again urge you to consider the preference of many community stakeholders for option 9 over options 2 and 7. Veterans in Canandaigua, across New York and all around this Nation are depending on us to keep the commitments we have made to them.

Sincerely,

Hillary Rodham Clinton


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