Senator Clinton Urges Department of Veterans Affairs to Consider Needs of Veterans and Local Communities in Determining Future of Montrose
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is urging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work with Hudson Valley veterans and communities to determine the course of redevelopment of the majority of the 184-acre Montrose VA campus under the Enhanced Use Lease program (EUL). In a statement provided to the Montrose VA Public Hearing, Senator Clinton voiced disappointment in the VA decision to remove inpatient psychiatric and nursing home facilities from Montrose and underscored the importance of putting veterans first when considering re-use options for the Montrose campus.
"The VA's disappointing decision to remove inpatient psychiatric and nursing home facilities from Montrose was unfortunately made without meaningful or substantial dialogue with the veterans and communities affected by that decision. The VA can avoid repeating that mistake as the redevelopment of the Montrose campus moves forward. I urge the VA to take into account the needs, views and concerns of local veterans and community stakeholders so that they can have a voice in decisions that will directly impact them," said Senator Clinton.
Senator Clinton has long been a vocal critic of the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) initiative and spoke out against proposed reductions in services available at the Montrose facility on a number of occasions.
The text of Senator Clinton's statement follows.
Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Montrose VA Public Hearing on Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) Program, July 29, 2008
It has been my privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with Hudson Valley veterans who care deeply about the future of the Montrose VA over the past five years and to fight with them against service reductions proposed by the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA). While we made it clear time and again that the Montrose VA facility should retain its original services, the VA unfortunately made the ill-considered decision to move all inpatient psychiatric and nursing home services from Montrose to Castle Point. Most troubling to me was that this decision was made without meaningful and sufficient dialogue with the local veterans who are most directly affected by this change.
Today, however, marks a new phase in the CARES process and is our first opportunity as a community to learn about the VA's plan for redeveloping the vast majority of the 184-acre Montrose campus under the Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) program. This new phase is a crucial one, as any decision the VA makes under the EUL program will have a significant impact on our veterans and the broader community for the foreseeable future. I am hopeful that today's public hearing is only the beginning of a significant dialogue between the VA and the community, and particularly local veterans, regarding the future of the Montrose campus.
Any decisions made by the VA regarding the re-use of land under the EUL program must fully account for the needs, views and concerns of local veterans and other community stakeholders. Engaging openly with local veterans will only help - not hinder - the VA to better identify the strengths and weaknesses of the various proposals that will likely be put forth for Montrose. We cannot accept a return to the unilateral decision making by the VA that resulted in Montrose losing its inpatient psychiatric and nursing home services.
Indeed, it is crucial that the VA not only listen to local veterans as they consider proposals for Montrose, but that they put the needs and concerns of those veterans first. This is particularly important at a time when more and more new veterans are returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As recent reports and studies have shown, these men and women who have stood up so valiantly in defense of our freedom are turning, and will continue to turn, to the VA in large numbers, particularly for help in dealing with the invisible wounds of war - traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is our obligation as a nation and as a community to provide this new generation of veterans with the facilities and the support they need and deserve.
Last year, I joined with Senator Schumer and Representatives Hall, Engel and Lowey in writing to the VA Secretary to ask that he meet with Westchester County Executive Andy Spano and Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi to fully consider their proposal for a Veterans' Village at Montrose. Today, with a new VA Secretary in place in Washington, I renew my request that he also meet with County Executive Spano and Town Supervisor Puglisi and that their proposal receive the VA's full and fair consideration before any re-use decision is made.
With U.S. troops serving bravely in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, now is the time to reaffirm the pact we have made as a nation with our veterans - that those who serve have access to the best health care and support possible at VA facilities.
Let us continue to work hard to live up to that commitment to our current and future veterans in the Hudson Valley, throughout New York, and across the country.