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Photo | Audio of the Hearing

(Washington, D.C.) -- At a Senate hearing today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) pressed Veterans' Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson to quickly open the Wenatchee VA Clinic without any further delays.



Murray raised the issue at a hearing of the Senate's Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies. Secretary Nicholson deferred the question to Dr. Michael Kussman, the VA's Acting Under Secretary for Health.



Unsatisfied with Dr. Kussman's response, Murray turned it back to the Secretary and got a commitment from him that he will promptly find out the status and "move it along."



A Transcript of the Discussion Follows:

SEN. MURRAY:

Secretary Nicholson, while you are here today I wanted to ask you about the Wenatchee VA Clinic. It was supposed to open this Spring. It was pushed to August, and now we're told it's gonna be September. Can I have your assurance that our Wenatchee VA clinic is going to be open and that you're doing everything in your power not to have another delay for these folks who have been waiting for this for years?


SEC. NICHOLSON:

I'm going to have to defer to Dr. Kussman or get back to you in writing. Can you respond?


DR. KUSSMAN:

I have to apologize. I don't have the specifics, but I can assure you it's on the list and we'll do everything -


SEN. MURRAY:

It's been on the list forever -
DR. KUSSMAN:

Well, we'll look into it and get back to you.
SEN. MURRAY:

Well they've waited a long time for this. There was a lot of expectation it was going to be open more than a year ago. Then we were told this Spring. Then it was August. Now it's September. And nobody believes us anymore that this is gonna open. So I just want your assurance that you can make a call, Mr. Secretary, and find out where this is and move it along.


SEC. NICHOLSON:

Oh yes, I'll do that promptly.


At the hearing, Murray also pressed the VA Secretary on reports that the VA and Pentagon knew about bureaucratic problems at Walter Reed three years before they were exposed nationally.



Also at the hearing, Senator Murray got a commitment from the VA Secretary that he will write to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and urge him to begin tracking battlefield exposures to explosions that could result in Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). The battlefield tracking idea, which was first suggested by a Pentagon medical board last year, would help the VA identify which service members may be at risk for TBI, allowing the VA to better screen and treat those service members.