Mass. legislators succeed in fight to keep Leeds VA Medical Center open
LEEDS, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - The veterans hospital set to close in Leeds will now remain open, a great victory for local veterans and legislators.
Massachusetts legislators fought hard to keep Leeds VA Memorial Center open. A local veterans affairs director said that the facility is crucial in caring for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
In the beginning of this year, the Department of Veteran Affairs announced that they were considering closing the VA Central Western Massachusetts Health Care system in Leeds. They said it was due to significant maintenance issues, investment requirements, and engineering challenges at the building.
“Their report was flawed from the beginning,” said Ludlow Veterans Affairs Director Eric Segundo Jr. “They had bad numbers, bad estimates.”
It was an issue many local legislators took on, including State Senator John Velis, who is a veteran himself.
“This issue, more so than any issue since I’ve been in office, caused more constituents to reach out, people saying things like, ‘If this happens, I’m not going to go forward with my healthcare treatment,’” Senator Velis told us.
If the hospital had been closed, many western Massachusetts veterans would have had to travel to Connecticut for their healthcare needs, which would have been extremely difficult for elder or disabled veterans who rely on family to drive them to their appointments.
“They would’ve had to travel to Connecticut to see their loved ones that are hospitalized,” Segundo Jr. said. “Just ridiculous.”
On Monday, lawmakers announced the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission had been dismantled, and therefore, the Leeds VA Medical Center would remain open.
Congressman Richard Neal sent Western Mass News a statement that reads, quote:
“Chairman Jim McGovern and I worked hard to ensure that the Leeds VA Medical Center would stay open and today’s news that it will indeed operate as usual is encouraging. Veterans and their loved ones will be able to rest assured knowing that the care they have always depended on will continue to be there for years to come.”
The commission faced opposition from 12 bipartisan senators. Without the Senate’s approval, the VA Mission Act process will not move forward.
Senator Velis told us that this is a perfect example of legislators working together with their community.
“The powers that be heard loud and clear from many people that this would’ve been a horrendous idea if they went forward, so I’m happy they listened,” he said.
However, he questioned why the closure was even considered. He said veterans should be receiving the best care, after sacrificing so much.
“We would’ve been saying, ‘Thank you for your service, however, don’t bother coming to us for your medical stuff,’ because that, in effect, would’ve happened,” Senator Velis told us. “Many people would’ve stopped getting the healthcare they so rightly earned.”
The decision to consider closing the hospital would have affected more than two thousand veterans in the western Massachusetts area.
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