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Letter to VA Committee Chairman Miller and Ranking Member Filner

Washington, DC….In response to the recent suspension of surgeries at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs John Cochran Medical Center, the bipartisan St. Louis area Congressional delegation is calling for a return of the House Veterans Affairs Committee to St. Louis. A special hearing of that committee was held in St. Louis following last year's dental clinic safety lapses.

Signing the letter to VA Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R, Florida) and Ranking Member Bob Filner (D, California) were Congressmen/woman John Shimkus (R, Illinois-19), Jerry Costello (D, Illinois-12), Russ Carnahan (D, Missouri-3), Jo Ann Emerson (R, Missouri-8), Todd Akin (R, Missouri-2), Tim Johnson (R, Illinois-15), William Lacy Clay (D, Missouri-1), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R, Missouri-9), and Bobby Schilling (R, Illinois-17).

The joint letter notes the belief that "serious systemic issues at Cochran" need to be investigated and that surgeries at the Marion, Illinois, VA Medical Center have still not resumed after problems surfaced there in 2007.

The complete letter follows:

Dear Chairman Miller and Ranking Member Filner,

Last July, you were in attendance at a field hearing held in St. Louis to address the problems at John Cochran VA Medical (Cochran) center. Unfortunately, last Thursday Cochran announced a halt to surgeries due to improper sterilization of equipment. The VA believes it to be a machine malfunction based on the ongoing investigation. Both are sterilization problems, but with different causes.

We believe that there are serious systemic issues at Cochran that need to be investigated by the House Veterans Affairs Committee. In addition, Marion VA Medical Center in southern Illinois is still not performing inpatient surgeries after stopping all surgeries in 2007 due to a variety of problems, including malpractice. While Cochran is being reviewed, the VA is contracting with local hospitals to perform their surgeries.

We ask that you return to St. Louis to do a follow up hearing on the entire Cochran facility; since last year's hearing focused primarily on the dental clinic and the sterile processing distribution department. And in future House Veterans Affairs Committee hearings in Washington, we ask that these incidents be brought up in order to determine whether a national issue underlies these local problems.

We know you share in our commitment to our nation's veterans, and we are sure you also share in our desire to make sure that the problems at Cochran are addressed.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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