WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Patty Murray from Washington State has written a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulin expressing her concerns over the proposed closure of the Veterans Clinic at North Valley Hospital slated for July of this year.
Ken Lee, a former American Legion Commander for Washington State, and a member of Oroville’s Hodges Post #84, shared the letter with the newspaper and we have included it here. Lee asks that those who wish to contact him with their concerns about Veteran’s healthcare in light of the decision to close the clinic in Tonasket, should contact him at 509-560-0607.
For more on the closure see this week’s issue of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune.
The letter follows:
The Honorable David Shulkin
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20420
Dear Secretary Shulkin:
I am deeply concerned by the Department’s intent to close the rural health clinic in Tonasket, Washington. More than 850 veterans rely on that clinic to receive care from VA. Without the clinic, they would be forced to travel either two hours each way to Wenatchee, or three hours each way to the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (MGWAMC) in Spokane. Further, there is already nearly a month-long wait for new primary care patients to be seen at MGVAMC. I strongly believe closing the health clinic in Tonasket would be a step backward from fulfilling our country’s promise to provide the best possible care to the men and women who served our country, and as a voice for the 600,000 veterans in Washington state, I urge you to intervene.
Unfortunately, threatening to close the clinic in Tonasket is just the latest move that affects veterans in Washington state, especially those who live in rural areas. In 2015, VA also closed the clinics in Republic and Colville eliminating access to care for hundreds of veterans. These actions were taken with the promise those veterans could seek care at Tonasket. VA has previously attempted to close the Yakima facility, and has downgraded the emergency room at MGVAMC to an urgent care clinic. After several years the Department continues to fail to replace the Bremerton CBOC which is too small to serve the veteran population, and which has had serious deficiencies including extensive black mold. These continued shortcomings and piecemeal steps to dismantle VA care in Washington state are unacceptable.
VA is obligated to provide access to high quality care for veterans, regardless of where they live, and to request the resources necessary to meet that responsibility. I will never shy away from fighting for the funding and authorities VA needs to care for our veterans, so I find it particularly unacceptable that the Department made this decision and began mailing notices to veterans that their access to care would be taken away, all without prior consultation with my office,
I ask that you protect veterans’ access to VA care by renewing or replacing the contract for the Tonasket clinic. Thank you for your work on behalf of our nation’s veterans.
United State Senator