Waco VA Hospital to Remain Open - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

12/01/06 - Texas

Waco VA Hospital to Remain Open

News Release:

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Friday announced that U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson has decided to retain all services at the Waco VA Hospital. The decision marks the conclusion of the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) process for the Waco VA.

"Secretary Nicholson has made the right decision. Keeping the Waco VA open is great news for Central Texas veterans. It has been an honor to work with the Waco community leadership, Senator Cornyn and Congressman Edwards over the past three years in support of the Waco VA, which has received recognition as a leading institution in its field. Support for the Waco VA is important as we work to fulfill our promise to America's veterans and ensure we have quality facilities to provide care for all who have served."

Following the conclusion of the CARES process, the VA will be developing plans for the implementation of the Waco VA Mental Health Center of Excellence, a designation achieved through legislation authored by Sen. Hutchison.

Sen. Hutchison has been a longtime advocate of the Waco VA. In 2003, the VA Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) Commission released a draft plan that called for the closure of the Waco facility. Sen. Hutchison lobbied for a commission hearing to be held in Waco so that Central Texas veterans could express their views on the issue. In 2004, Sen. Hutchison arranged for the VA Secretary at the time, Anthony Principi, to visit Waco and see the hospital first hand. As a result, the VA agreed to postpone a final decision pending further study of veterans needs.

Sen. Hutchison welcomed Jim Nicholson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to the Waco VA in July of 2005. She personally invited him to tour the facility to see the resources and care provided by the hospital and discuss its future.

In November of 2005, Sen. Hutchison authored legislation which designated the Waco VA a Mental Health Center of Excellence. The Waco VA is a leading institution in the field of psychiatric care and has conducted breakthrough research and treatment of mental health conditions, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This designation made additional research funding available to the hospital and greatly strengthened the case for continued operation.

The legislation she authored also included language to delay the CARES process by encouraging further study of VA facilities. It prohibited any change to the current infrastructure, service or mission of the 18 facilities recommended by the CARES Commission for additional review. It encouraged the VA to conduct further study of these locations - which include the Waco VA -- and submit their recommendations to be considered in the VA's FY 2007 capital plan.

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