Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congresswoman Kathy Hochul urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to reconsider plans to shutter the VA Warsaw Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Wyoming County. The lawmakers' letter comes following the VA's announcement that they plan to close the facility and consolidate services with the facility in Batavia, forcing local veterans who rely on the clinic to drive much further for basic healthcare. Citing the negative effect on veterans' care and the minimal cost savings the closure would achieve, the lawmakers sent a personal letter to VA Secretary General Shinseki, urging him to abandon plans to close the clinic.
"Veterans from Alleghany to Livingston and Wyoming Counties rely on the Warsaw clinic for essential health care," Schumer said. "Closing this clinic would place a hardship on brave men and women who have served their country with honor and distinction, and is no way to repay them for their service. I strongly urge the VA to keep this clinic open rather than forcing our vets to drive miles more for basic care."
"Our veterans answer a call higher than any other," said Senator Gillibrand. "They fight for our nation, and we need to fight for all the resources they deserve, including a VA worthy of their service. Western New York's veterans rely on this clinic, and we can't afford to lose it. It needs to stay open and available."
"At a time when I am working to provide greater access to primary care for veterans living in rural communities, I am concerned that the VA has decided to close a clinic for those veterans," said Congresswoman Hochul, a Member of the House Armed Services Committee. "I would ask for more transparency in this decision, especially the cost savings attached to this closing, and any health considerations given to forcing these veterans to travel over twenty miles for primary care."
Last Friday, February 17th, the Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System (VAWNYHS) announced unexpectedly that it planned to realign the existing outpatient health care services in VA Western New York Healthcare System (VAWNYHS) Warsaw Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) to VAWNYHS- Batavia VA Medical Center. It was announced the Warsaw Clinic would cease operations on March 2, 2012 and all primary care services would now be offered only at the Batavia VA Medical Center. In place of the Warsaw CBOC, the VA also announced it would begin operating a shuttle service between Warsaw and the VAWNYHS Batavia campus which would be available to veterans free of charge and operate five days a week with four pickup points in and around Warsaw.
According to the Wyoming County Community Hospital (WCCH) where the VA leases space to run the Warsaw CBOC the current lease for the Warsaw CBOC is $1,050.60 per month and WCCH is prepared to extend this agreement for at least six months without increased costs to the VA. Since the VA does not plan to cut any staff as a result of this closure, the lawmarkers point out the extent of savings is relatively modest, particularly once the cost of the expanded 5-day shuttle service is factored into the overall net cost. Over the past year nearly 800 veterans received care at the Warsaw, NY CBOC.
Hon. Eric K. Shinseki
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Dear Secretary Shinseki,
Last week, our offices were informed that the Department of Veterans Affairs Western New York Healthcare System (VAWNYHS) has decided to realign health care services provided by the VA Warsaw Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) to the VAWNYHS Batavia campus starting on March 3, 2012. As this clinic serves veterans in and around Alleghany, Livingston, and Wyoming Counties, we have heard from a number of our constituents regarding this matter. We respectfully request an explanation describing how you arrived at your determination and ask that you reconsider your decision to close the VA Warsaw CBOC.
Based on information provided by the VA, as well as the Wyoming County Community Hospital (WCCH) where the VA leases space to run the Warsaw CBOC, it does not appear this closure offers significant cost savings. According to the WCCH, the current lease for the Warsaw CBOC is $1,050.60 per month and WCCH is prepared to extend this agreement for at least six months without increased costs to the VA. Since the VA does not plan to cut any staff as a result of this closure, the extent of savings is relatively modest.
In addition, under the announced realignment plan, the VA will be offering bus service to transport veterans free of charge to the Batavia campus five days per week, four times daily. Factoring in the cost of this service makes the net cost savings even more negligible.
For more than ten years, the local veterans community advocated for the establishment of this clinic to make certain veterans had greater access to primary care services. The decision to close this clinic will result in diminished access and less convenience for area veterans. We are concerned that an unintended consequence will be veterans forgoing primary medical treatment, which could lead to untreated illnesses. Offering more access to primary care lowers health care costs.
We believe that our area veterans should have greater access to primary care, especially if the cost to the VA is not overly burdensome. Once again, we respectfully ask you to provide us with a detailed explanation as to how you arrived at your decision. We also ask that you reconsider closing the VA Warsaw Community Based Outpatient Clinic.
Charles E. Schumer