Murray to Hold Field Hearing on VA’s CARES Initiative

Mar 02 2004

Senator to focus national and regional attention on the needs of region’s veterans

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today received authorization from Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, to hold a field hearing in Washington state. The hearing will explore the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) Initiative’s affects on Washington state veterans.

“This field hearing will give our veterans and the local community a voice in this ongoing process and provide a necessary follow-up to last September’s CARES Commission hearings,” Murray said.

Murray, a longtime veterans’ advocate and senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will Chair the regional hearing to investigate the Administration’s handling of the CARES process and the Commission’s recommendations for the VA facilities in Tacoma, Vancouver and Walla Walla.

In February, the CARES Commission forwarded its final report to VA Secretary Anthony Principi calling for expanded services in Vancouver and closure of inpatient beds in Walla Walla. The American Lake VA Medical Center in Tacoma, was previously removed from the potential closure list following conversations between Murray and Secretary Principi.

“I am pleased the CARES Commission’s recommendation in Vancouver will enhance services for our veterans in southwest Washington,” Murray said. “But closing the Walla Walla facility puts easily accessible care out of the reach of our region’s veterans and increases the load on overburdened facilities in Spokane and across the state.”

Senator Murray’s field hearing will specifically take a closer look at the consequences of the recommendation to close the Walla Walla VA hospital. The field hearing is likely to occur later this spring.

Secretary Principi has until mid-March to approve or alter the CARES Commission’s findings before he sends the Administration’s final recommendation to Congress for a 60 day review.

“Leaving our veterans without real alternatives to the comprehensive care they receive at Walla Walla is the wrong thing to do. I intend to give our veterans and our local community the opportunity to weigh in on this process,” Murray said.