Local veterans raise concerns to state leaders over possible closure of VA Medical Center


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LEEDS, Mass. (WWLP) – Local veterans are voicing their concerns to state leaders about the possible closure of the Central Western Massachusetts Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. If that VA hospital were to close, it would affect thousands of local veterans, many of them worry about having to travel a long distance for care.

“To lose the VA here, it’s regrettable,” Dave Boyle, a Vietnam veteran said.

Local and state leaders called on the US Department of Veteran Affairs to reconsider their recommendation to close the medical center.

“I find this decision unacceptable, and we are going to do everything in our power To stop it,” said State Representative Jim McGovern. “Quite frankly, I’ll even go to Joe Biden about this.”

Back in March, the Department of Veteran Affairs released recommendations that suggested closing the Leeds facility, due to what they called “significant maintenance issues and engineering challenges” at the building.

The VA Medical Center serves nearly 30,000 veterans, some of them worried about where to go next, and how far they’d have to travel.

Navy veteran Michelle Chandler said, “We are living in a time when it’s harder to fill your car. I don’t see how asking people to travel further for care that was promised to them when they signed their life away fits in with that sort of mission?”

If the VA in Leeds were to close, veterans would have to travel to West Haven, Connecticut for services. The VA is aiming to eventually build a replacement facility in Newington, Connecticut. They’re hoping to disperse some services through a series of “community partners”, meaning non-VA facilities in the region.

Jeff Harness, the Chief Community Relations Officer for Cooley Dickinson Hospital, says if the VA is closed they will welcome the veterans, but acknowledges that veterans need more specific care.

“We are not necessarily the place that best understands their unique needs,” Harness said. “And that place in fact is the VA Medical Center.”

The Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission will conduct public hearings as part of its review of the VA’s recommendations before submitting its own recommendations to the White House for further review next year.

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