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McGovern Leads Members of Massachusetts Congressional Delegation in Calling on Veterans Affairs Secretary to Stop Closure of Leeds VA Medical Center

“Serious Concern” that closing the center will drastically reduce access to vital care for veterans in the Commonwealth

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Washington, April 15, 2022 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today,  Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (MA-02) led nearly every member of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), and Representatives Richard Neal (MA-01), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Bill Keating (MA-09), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Lori Trahan (MA-03), and Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), in calling on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to reconsider their recent recommendation to close the Central Western Massachusetts Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds, Massachusetts. Closure of the center could jeopardize the essential care veterans living in Central and Western Massachusetts earned during their time in service.

The VA Medical Center in Leeds delivers high-quality, specialized care to thousands of veterans in the area. Many of these heroes require critical services to support their mental and physical health, and relocating the center would make it extraordinarily difficult for impaired and aging vets to receive the care they both need and deserve.

“Of particular concern is that many veterans would now need to travel at least two-hours round trip to receive care at VA medical centers in West Haven, Connecticut; Eastern Massachusetts; or Albany, New York,” wrote the Members in their letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Due to health status, advanced age, or lack of public transportation, far too many of the approximately 21,000 veterans who currently receive care at CWM VAMC would be unduly burdened.”

“Another area of significant concern is reduced access to veteran-focused mental health services. CWM VAMC currently provides […] programs for veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress, as well as offer beds for veterans struggling with substance use disorder in a region that is already unable to meet the demand. […] We worry that moving these services to locations in Connecticut or Eastern Massachusetts would result in veterans either not getting the care they need or putting incredible strain on their families and loved ones.” 

On March 14, 2022, the Department of Veterans Affairs released their recommendations for the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission (AIR Commission), which suggested closing the Leeds facility due to significant maintenance issues, investment requirements, and engineering challenges at the building.

“We are concerned that the process used to make CWM VAMC’s closure recommendation doesn’t accurately reflect the medical center's current standing or future potential because it largely relied on old data from FY2015 through FY2018. For example, since that time there has been $108,400,000 in completed or ongoing renovations and modernization projects at the facility. Additionally, nearly $93,000,000 in future upgrades are planned for the coming years. We have attached a breakdown of these projects for your review. The VA has already made significant investments to the facility and closure would be a waste of those improvements,” continued the Members.

McGovern is set to host an informational listening session on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at the Florence VFW Post 8006 to hear from local veterans and their families about how such a closure would impact them and share the next steps he is taking to protect the Leeds VA medical center. He has also said that he will bring the concerns he hears directly to VA Secretary McDonough and, if necessary, President Biden.

The Members’ signed letter is available here.

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