BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) – The Department of Veterans Affairs released its findings and recommendations after completing a study of all VA hospitals.
The Veterans Affairs office Asset and Infrastructure Review made multiple recommendations to the commission that they feel would improve the service given to veterans at the Beckley VA Medical Center The AIR commission report recommends closing the existing Beckley VAMC and constructing a newer, more modern facility in Beckley.
The new facility would eliminate ER care at the Beckley VA Medical Center, but would place increased priority on mental health, primary care, adult daycare, and long-term care in VA nursing homes, otherwise known as community living centers.
Jack Tanner, Executive Director of the Raleigh County Commission on Aging, said the need for better senior care in Southern West Virginia is a serious issue.
“Raleigh County, Beckley, as everyone knows, is sort of a medical hub for southern West Virginia,” said Tanner. “There are a number of long-term care facilities, but as you have said, most of those are at or near capacity.”
In fact, the overwhelming majority of nursing homes in the area are at capacity. According to the AIR report, nursing homes within a 30-minute drive of the Beckley VAMC are at 94% capacity. Indicating very few beds are available in the area.
Tanner said the proposed 50-bed living facility would show a strong commitment to southern West Virginia’s veterans.
“I certainly encourage and hope the (VA) can expand whatever care they can provide to our elderly. Especially our elderly veterans. They deserve it and we owe it to them,” said Tanner.
In a statement in response to the report, the Beckley VA Medical Center said, in part:
“It is important to note that any recommendations to the upcoming AIR Commission are just that—recommendations. Nothing is changing now for Veteran access to care or VA employees. Any potential changes to VA’s health care infrastructure may be several years away and are dependent on Commission, Presidential, and Congressional decisions.”
The report also recommends opening a new location in Summersville to help veterans in that area cut down on traveling all the way to Beckley.
Below is the Beckley VAMC’s full statement in response to the report:
“A was required by law under the VA MISSION Act of 2018 to conduct a series of market assessments to examine future demand for health care services among the veteran population, which is projected to change in size and location over the next decade. As part of that process, VA is due to submit findings and recommendations to an independent Commission called the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, which would review and evaluate the findings and make its own recommendations to the President in early 2023.
Veterans will always be at the center of what we do. The AIR Commission is an opportunity to redesign VA health care to maximize access and outcomes for current and future generations of Veterans. It is important to note that any recommendations to the upcoming AIR Commission are just that—recommendations. Nothing is changing now for Veteran access to care or VA employees. Any potential changes to VA’s health care infrastructure may be several years away and are dependent on Commission, Presidential, and Congressional decisions, as well as robust stakeholder engagement and planning. In the long run, AIR recommendations could impact VHA facilities and staff, but it’s too early to know exactly what or where those impacts might be. VA will remain in all of our health care markets.”