Rebecca Stackhouse: Veterans can count on VA now and in the future
With the passage of the Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act in 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs began a process to look at VA medical facilities nationwide as part of an Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) to help determine what was needed to support our Veteran population into the future. More than 1,700 recommendations were made nation-wide and presented to the AIR Commission in March.
The Salem VA Health Care System is comprised of the main campus in Salem, Virginia in addition to Community Based Outpatient Clinics located in Tazewell, Wytheville, Danville, Lynchburg, and Staunton. We serve more than 30,000 Veterans in a 26-county area of southwest Virginia. We partner with community Health Care systems to provide high quality care that meets the needs of our Veterans. Salem VA Health Care System is known as an education and training facility for numerous Health Care disciplines as well as an active participant in research initiatives.
Recommendations call for the construction of a new facility to replace the current Salem VA Medical Center buildings originally dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934; the implementation of strategic partnerships with local Health Care providers for inpatient medical and surgical services and emergency department services; the creation of a new community based outpatient clinic in Bedford County; and the closure of the current Salem VA Medical Center facility once the new building is constructed.
The AIR report released in March and the recommendations it contains represent the earliest stages of a long and deliberative process and should not yet be considered final. A presidentially appointed AIR Commission will use the next year to review the recommendations, gather more data as needed, and potentially modify the recommendations based on new information.
After the year-long review, the AIR Commission will submit its recommendations to the President, and from there to Congress, where the recommendations will be voted on in their entirety. If approved, the VA will then begin a multi-year process of prioritization and funding approvals for projects. Because of this timeline, and the time to construct new facilities, we do not expect any substantiative changes for at least several years.
Regardless of what the AIR Commission, the President, and Congress approves, there is one thing that will never change – the commitment of the men and women of the Salem VA to promote the health and well-being of our Veterans.
As the AIR Commission begins its deliberations, and potential changes to the recommendations emerge, I want to reassure Veterans that we will continue serving Veterans in our community and will update you along the way as the AIR Commission moves through this process. It is our great honor and privilege to provide health care services for Veterans who dedicated their lives to secure our freedoms.
Rebecca Stackhouse is the executive director of the Salem VA Healthcare System which includes the Salem VA Medical Center and Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Wytheville, Tazewell, Danville, Lynchburg and Staunton.