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Manchin hosting tele-town hall for West Virginia veterans on VA Care

WHEELING — Local veterans who travel to Pittsburgh for health care at the Veterans Administration hospital soon may not be accepted there under a proposal being considered.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is seeking input from West Virginia veterans about the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recommendations to the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission. Their report proposes significant reductions in services at three of the four VA medical centers in West Virginia.

Manchin’s office is hosting a tele-town hall to discuss the recommendations with veterans at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Those wanting to participate should call 415-527-5035. The meeting number is 2763 805 3488, and the passcode is 98838372.

A local in-person “watch party” of the event is also set in the Northern Panhandle at “Helping Heroes, Inc, 2005 Eoff St., Suite 200, in Wheeling. Refreshments will be provided.

Under the commission’s recommendations, only one VA hospital – the one located in Martinsburg – would remain open in the state.

On top of that, West Virginia veterans would not be permitted to seek care at veterans facilities outside their state, according to Mary Jo Guidi, regional coordinator for Manchin.

For example, veterans in the area who go to the VA Hospital in Pittsburgh would no longer be accepted there, and they would have to find local doctors.

“And many doctors are not accepting new patients,” she said.

The AIR report recommends that the Huntington and Clarksburg VA medical centers stop offering inpatient medical and surgical services, and instead partner with local hospitals and healthcare facilities. The Huntington and Clarksburg VAMC’s emergency departments would convert to urgent care centers.

“With the proposed inpatient medical and surgical services strategic collaboration, there is no longer a need to provide emergency department services at the (Clarksburg and Huntington) VAMC,” the report stated. “Replacing the emergency department with an urgent care center will allow the VAMC to serve low complexity patients during the hours when most Veterans seek care. Emergency department services will continue to remain available at community providers proximate to the (Clarksburg and Huntington) VAMC.”

Manchin contends the VA’s recommendations to the AIR Commission “are deeply flawed” and will impact rural states like West Virginia far more than other parts of America.

“In West Virginia, three of our four VAMCs would be downsized, forcing our brave veterans to travel farther for the same care they’ve received at our VAMCs for years,” Manchin said in a released statement. “The AIR Commission’s plan is far from final, and as a member of both the Senate Appropriations and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees, I will fight tooth and nail to prevent the loss of a single VA service or facility in West Virginia.”

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