Readout of Chairman McGovern’s Call with United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough
WASHINGTON — On Friday, May 6th, Chairman McGovern held a productive conversation with Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough to express his serious concern about the Department’s recommendation to close the Central Western Massachusetts Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds, Massachusetts.
Chairman McGovern shared with Secretary McDonough the anxiety and distress that this announcement has caused veterans and their loved ones across the region, and reiterated that many veterans have told him that they would simply stop seeking treatment if they were required to drive to another state to receive the veteran-specific care they have come to rely on in Leeds. He provided personal testimony from veterans living across the region, including sharing the transcript of a listening session that he hosted in Northampton. Chairman McGovern highlighted that the review, which began during the Trump Administration and prior to Secretary McDonough’s confirmation, used outdated and incomplete data as the baseline for the recommendation. He also emphasized that over $200 million has been invested in completed, ongoing, and planned renovations at the facility over the last few years—investments that weren’t considered as part of the closure recommendation.
Secretary McDonough said he recognizes the serious issues with the incomplete data used to make the recommendation, and assured Chairman McGovern that steps are being taken to ensure that the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission will have up-to-date and accurate information before making its final recommendation to the President. He acknowledged and discussed with Chairman McGovern the recent investments in the facility, and reiterated that he does not want to privatize the VA and takes the concerns he has heard from veterans about this issue very seriously.
Chairman McGovern expressed his appreciation for President Biden’s recent request for the largest VA budget in our nation’s history, and said that the President’s budget prioritizes improving access to specialized care at VA facilities. The Chairman also said that he would do everything in his power to make sure that this recommendation does not move forward, and that he would be providing updates to his constituents so they know that their voices are being heard. He then thanked the Secretary for his time and attention to this issue, and for his steadfast commitment to veterans around the country.
Secretary McDonough thanked Chairman McGovern for his advocacy and pledged to work with him moving forward.