Lawmakers Take Bipartisan Stand against VA Service Cuts

Two Washington State lawmakers who are normally politically opposed have joined together to take a stand against efforts by Joe Biden’s VA secretary to slash veteran services in their state.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) have both been involved in addressing recommendations made by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough affecting two Washington VA facilities.

McDonough has proposed downsizing the VA hospital in Walla Walla and ending inpatient services altogether at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane. His plan would convert the Spokane hospital into a clinic that would refer patients to non-VA facilities for inpatient services or serious conditions.

McMorris Rodgers wrote to McDonough in opposition to the proposal. She emphasized her support for a procedural move made by the Senate last month that blocked a VA commission from approving McDonough’s proposal.

The Senate action was led by Murray and 11 other senators.

McMorris Rodgers wrote that the Senate’s action in stopping the VA’s Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission was the “first step in preventing their misguided recommendations from moving forward.” She went on to say the work was not over and it is now “time to double down” to stop VA leadership from removing services being provided to veterans.

The plan put forward by McDonough to “modernize and realign” the VA hospital system would involve the closure or rebuilding of dozens of hospitals nationwide. It proposes the construction of 14 new hospitals to consolidate services.

Murray and the other senators who blocked the commission’s approval of the plan did so by refusing to approve any nominees to serve on the body presented by Biden. The president has sent nine nominations for the commission to the Senate for approval this year. None have been voted on or have had a confirmation hearing to date.

The senators wrote to McDonough last month stating that the commission’s approval of his proposal “would put veterans in both rural and urban areas at a disadvantage.” They advised him that they would not support moving the approval process forward.

Rather than restructuring the VA system, the senators said they are committed to “expanding and strengthening modern VA infrastructure in a way that upholds our obligations to America’s veterans.”

Congress passed the 2018 VA Mission Act during the Trump administration for the purpose of eliminating bureaucratic waste in the VA. That law requires the agency to develop a plan to streamline services at the 170 medical facilities in the system.