Schumer Presses New VA Secretary Nominee To Support Canandaigua VA Hospital
Former VA Secretary Anthony Principi, who had been sympathetic to the communitys interests in the hospital, stepped down last monthIn phone call, Schumer urges new nominee Jim Nicholson to maintain the community panel studying the best solution for the Canandaigua VA Hospital
US Senator Charles E. Schumer pressed the new nominee for Veterans Administration Secretary, Jim Nicholson, to support the community advisory board currently deciding the fate of the Canandaigua VA Hospital. Schumer, who convinced Secretary Anthony Principi to involve local community leaders in the decision process, said that the panel was carefully constructed to include the views of local veterans and community members, and disrupting the panel would be counterproductive. Nicholson agreed to consider Schumer's request and will respond with his decision after reviewing the issue.
"I am going to keep pushing Ambassador Nicholson for an assurance that he will keep Secretary Principis commitment to involve the community and local veterans in any decision having to do with the fate of the Canandaigua VA Hospital, Schumer said. Secretary Principi and I worked well together and developed a plan for community input through the advisory panel. I will fight to make sure this collaboration continues and that the community panels recommendations will be taken seriously under any new leadership at the Department of Veteran Affairs.
Schumer said that if Nicholsons nomination is approved by the Senate, one of his first major tasks as VA Secretary will be to assume control of the CARES process begun under Secretary Principi and that one of the most critical CARES decisions he will have to make will involve what to do with the Canandaigua VA Hospital. Schumer urged Nicholson not to make changes to the community advisory panel that has been formed to determine the final fate of the Canandaigua VA. The panel, which at Schumers urging has representation from local veterans community and the larger Canandaigua community, will be responsible for making recommendations to the VA Secretary regarding plans to expand health care services in Canandaigua, including exploring the possibility of upgrading the existing facility. Schumer told Nicholson that the advisory board was carefully constructed to balance all viewpoints, and altering could create a major impediment to progress.
In 2003, the VA released its CARES Draft National Plan which recommended closing the 70 yearold Canandaigua Veteran's hospital and sending roughly 200 inpatients to more distant VA hospitals in Bath, Batavia, Buffalo, and Syracuse. Currently, the hospital administers medical services to an enrolled population of 25,000 area veterans in Canandaigua each year and cares for about 200 severely ill inpatients. In addition, the hospital employs an estimated 800 workers and is one of Ontario County's largest employers.
In response, Schumer, the community, and the Congressional delegation mounted a furious campaign to keep the hospital open. Schumer convinced VA Secretary Anthony Principi to come to Canandaigua to see the hospital in person. Later at a public hearing at the facility in October, Schumer presented the CARES commission with a petition signed by about 80,000 New Yorkers concerned about the planned closing. This summer, Schumer convinced Principi to include members of the Canandaigua community in the advisory panel set up to determine the fate of the hospital.
"Secretary Principi promised me that this won't be a case of the VA ramming a decision down the throats of the Canandaigua community and I am going see that that remains the case regardless of who takes his place," Schumer said. "We will have a real say in what happens to the facility and Ambassador Nicholson now knows we are not about to let that change."
Principi stepped down last month and the President has nominated Nicholson, who is currently the US Ambassador to the Vatican, to take his place. Nicholson is a West Point graduate who won a Bronze star during eight years in Vietnam as an Army Ranger and paratrooper. He retired as a full colonel after 22 years in the Army Reserve.
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