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A battle to not downsize the VA

Commentary

I try not to be personal in these articles, but, rather, discuss issues which affect the general public. I have made an exception here because this issue does affect an important segment of the general public — veterans.

I am a Vietnam veteran and have benefitted from receiving medical services from the Veterans Administration (VA.) When I first started, the local VA office was located in an old and confined space on Second Street in Jamestown. However, a few years ago, it was relocated into a newly renovated and very inviting building just across the Third Street Bridge. The level of care has also improved and most veterans, I believe, appreciate the services they are receiving locally from the VA.

Now, it has been announced that the VA is downsizing the staffing at the facility by about 20%. This is a sad development because it is going to diminish the level of care for veterans in Jamestown. The purported reason for the reductions is that the Jamestown office has somehow fallen below a certain statistical level of patients per staff–and thus “whack”, we are going to reduce staff.

Did this edict come out of the Buffalo office? Is it a “trickle-down” from Washington, some new federal policy that applies nation-wide? Nobody is sure. What we do know is that the local medical director for the VA in Jamestown was not consulted nor were any of the staff. Rather, the change was made in a “top down” approach without regard for the success the local clinic has become, and the quality of care they deliver to veterans.

I have written to our Congressman and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer about this but, as yet, have heard nothing on the matter. “We are looking into it.” I was told by one staff person.

I have not written directly to the VA because I don’t think one veteran speaking out in an agency so big and bureaucratic would accomplish anything. I think our only hope is that one of our federal representatives can succeed in turning things around.

In this instance, it could be helpful that Tom Reed, our Congressman, is involved because he has been a supporter of the current Administration and is Co-Chair of the President’s re-election committee here in New York. That may not mean a quick solution to a matter as small as downsizing a VA community outpatient clinic in rural western New York. On the other hand, we can be assured that somebody at the VA will pick up the phone and at least talk to him about the situation.

Why write about something like this which is an insignificant event for most people in our community? I guess my motivation goes back to the days when I was on active duty in the military. As an officer, I found that most soldiers, sailors and airmen were not complainers. Even when they had something to complain about, they would generally internalize it, not buck the system and go on about their work. This attitude continues to prevail when they become veterans, after their active duty service.

Having once been an elected official myself, I suppose I am a little less reticent to complain when I see something going wrong. Downsizing the staff at the Jamestown VA Clinic by 20% with no input from the local medical personnel providing the care is wrong. I have a pen and am known for my opinions and thus, you are hearing about my views on this matter. I hope that, for the sake of good medical care for veterans in our community, the situation can be rectified.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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