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Public Statements

Letter to The Honorable James Peake, M.D., Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs

Murray to VA: Time to Fund New Walla Walla Veterans Nursing Home is Now

After elderly veterans forced to evacuate facility, Murray leads members of Northwest Congressional Delegation in calling for funding for new facility in upcoming Fiscal Year

Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) led members of Congress in writing to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary James Peake to call for federal funding for construction of a new nursing home in Walla Walla in the upcoming Fiscal Year. Senator Murray's letter comes after the existing Walla Walla nursing home was shut down in July following an outside audit that revealed problems in the quality of care and infrastructure of the facility.

"The elderly veterans who are served by the Walla Walla VA Medical Center deserve so much more than dangerous conditions and questionable care," Senator Murray said. "The need to evacuate veterans from the facility last month demonstrates that this is an urgent situation, which deserves immediate attention from the VA."

In the letter sent to Secretary Peake today, Senator Murray and other members of the Northwest Congressional Delegation noted that Washington state has committed to fund its portion of a new nursing home and called on the VA to do the same.

"Given Washington state's commitment to fund its portion of the State Veterans Home, and in light of the VA's decision to close the Walla Walla VA nursing home, we urge you to provide federal funding for construction of the Walla Walla State Veterans Home in Fiscal Year 2009," the delegation wrote in their letter.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers - whose Congressional District includes the Walla Walla VA Medical Center - has led the effort to fund a new nursing home facility in the House of Representatives.

"I urge Secretary Peake to help ensure the Walla Walla Veterans Hospital has the proper funding to provide Northwest veterans the services, care, and benefits they earned while honorably serving our county," Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers said. "I am happy to have Senator Murray as my partner in the Senate as we work to make sure our nation honors its commitment to our veterans."

Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Larry Craig (R-ID), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives, Doc Hasting (R-WA 4th), Bill Sali (R-ID), and Greg Walden (R-OR 2nd) also joined Senator Murray in writing Secretary Peake.

The following is the full text of the letter:

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

The Honorable James Peake, M.D.
Secretary
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Peake:

We write to request your support for the approval of funding for a new State Veterans Home at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Walla Walla VA Medical Center in Fiscal Year 2009.

As you know, the Walla Walla VA nursing home has been caring for veterans in southeastern Washington, northeastern Oregon and northern Idaho for 80 years. However, two weeks ago the Department of Veterans Affairs closed the facility and relocated all remaining patients after an independent audit determined that the facility posed an immediate threat to life and did not meet professional standards.

The findings of the independent auditor and the VA's subsequent decision to close the Walla Walla VA nursing home underscore the urgent need to build a new, state-of-the-art nursing home facility at the Walla Walla VA Medical Center.

Fortunately, the Walla Walla VA Medical Center and the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs have been working together to meet the long term care needs of veterans in this region by building a State Veterans Home on the Walla Walla VA Medical Center grounds. In fact, on July 30, 2008, Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs Director John Lee sent a letter to you expressing the State of Washington's intent to move forward with the funding and construction of a State Veterans Home.

Given Washington state's commitment to fund its portion of the State Veterans Home, and in light of the VA's decision to close the Walla Walla VA nursing home, we urge you to provide federal funding for construction of the Walla Walla State Veterans Home in Fiscal Year 2009.

Thank you for your consideration of this important request. We look forward to working with you on this and others matters of concern to our Nation's veterans.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
United States Senator Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Member of Congress
Larry Craig
United States Senator Maria Cantwell
United States Senator
Mike Crapo
United States Senator Doc Hastings
Member of Congresss
Bill Sali
Member of Congress Gordon Smith
United States Senator
Greg Walden
Member of Congress Ron Wyden
United States Senator


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