August 22, 2006
The Honorable William Winkenwerder, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs
1200 Defense Pentagon, Room 3E1082
Washington, DC 20301-1200
Dear Assistant Secretary Winkenwerder,
On August 17, we obtained the attached letter from the commander of the Patterson Army Health Clinic (PAHC) that apparently went to all TRICARE Plus beneficiaries who currently use the PAHC for their medical care, explaining that they will need to find alternative care providers by October 16, 2006. This would add expense and inconvenience to the patients. We wish to voice our strong opposition to this move, and demand that you meet with us to discuss alternatives.
Of course we understand the financial constraints facing the military clinics, and the impending Fort Monmouth closure later this decade necessitates your examining options for the Patterson Clinic. During a teleconference on August 10 with Dr. Steve Jones (OASD-HA), Col. John Morse, and Capt. Ronald Forbus, we discussed options that continue the functions of the clinic.
As discussed in our teleconference, a number of options are being explored that would continue the function of the clinic, if not its active military status, including an expanded veteran's clinic with a reciprocal TRICARE agreement. We were assured that these options would be fully explored with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, and the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority prior to any degradation of service at the PAHC. We were startled to discover one week later that these assurances seemed meaningless.
It is incumbent upon you to work with Army Secretary Francis Harvey, the VA, DMAVA, and the FMERPA to find whatever resources are necessary keep the PAHC open or otherwise ensure both the continuity and quality of care provided, until a plan has been established to care for area retirees. The TRICARE patients of the Patterson Clinic should have no less care than others in the military networks because of BRAC decisions that had nothing to do with them and were beyond their control. We look forward to your response.
RUSH HOLT FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress Member of Congress