CHILLICOTHE — After facing the threat of closure by the Department of Veteran Affairs, the Chillicothe VA will remain open.
It was announced on Monday that the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, which had recommended the closure, would not be meeting again. The end of the commission means that the Chillicothe VA is no longer facing possible closure and will remain open.
A joint statement from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, Chairman Jon Tester, Senators Joe Manchin, Mike Rounds, Martin Heinrich, Shelley Moore Capito, Maggie Hassan, John Thune, Patty Murray, Steve Daines, Ben Ray Luján and Rob Portman was released stating their opposition to the commission.
“As Senators, we share a commitment to expanding and strengthening modern VA infrastructure in a way that upholds our obligations to America’s veterans. We believe the recommendations put forth to the AIR Commission are not reflective of that goal, and would put veterans in both rural and urban areas at a disadvantage, which is why we are announcing that this process does not have our support and will not move forward," the statement read. "The Commission is not necessary for our continued push to invest in VA health infrastructure, and together we remain dedicated to providing the Department with the resources and tools it needs to continue delivering quality care and earned services to veterans in 21st century facilities—now and into the future.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs' recommended closing the Chillicothe VA in a report to the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission earlier this year.
The 73-page report outlined recommendations based on a cost-benefit analysis and its compliance with the VA MISSION Act, a law signed by former President Donald Trump in 2018.
The VA's recommendation to the AIR Commission includes:
Closing the Chillicothe VAMC because it "is not optimally located."
Establishing a multi-specialty community-based outpatient clinic (MS CBOC) in the vicinity of Chillicothe.
Establishing a strategic collaboration to provide inpatient medical services and discontinuing those services at the Chillicothe VAMC.
Relocating inpatient mental health, residential rehabilitation treatment program (RRTP), community living center (CLC) and outpatient services currently provided at the Chillicothe VAMC to current or future VA facilities and discontinuing those services at the Chillicothe VAMC.
Since the recommendations were released, various people at the local, state and federal level had been fighting to keep the VA open locally.
Mayor Luke Feeney announced the news during Monday night's city council meeting, those in attendance, both in the audience and on council, let out cheers and sighs of relief at the good news. Feeney said he was "ecstatic" and that he had never seen people from all over the community work as hard as they did on protecting the VA.
"To hear the AIR commission will not come back... I am nothing short of ecstatic," said Feeney.
Feeney thanked senators Brown and Rob Portman for their continued support in ensuring veterans in the area can receive high-quality care close to home.
“From the beginning, residents in Chillicothe and Ross County were resolved to put an end to this plan. We did so out of respect for our community’s veterans – who deserve proper care delivered close to home – and for the hard-working and tireless employees of the Chillicothe V.A," said Mike Throne, President and CEO, Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce in a statement. "More than 25 businesses in our community co-signed the Chamber’s letter to our Congressmen urging them to fight for what was right and we’re grateful for the senators and their efforts to end the commission’s formation. We know we must remain vigilant in the fight to ensure our veterans have the proper care they need each day and to be assured the Chillicothe VA will continue to serve southern Ohio’s veterans.”
Shelby Reeves is a reporter for the Chillicothe Gazette. You can email her at SReeves@gannett.com or follow her on Twitter @Shelby_Reeves_
This article originally appeared on Chillicothe Gazette: Senators announce Chillicothe VA facility to remain open