New Mexico DVS Secretary Smith Briefed Ahead Of Today’s VA Announcement Of Possible CBOC Closures

DVS News:

SANTA FE—New Mexico Department of Veterans Services (DVS) Cabinet Secretary Sonya Smith was briefed by New Mexico VA Health Care System (NMVAHCS) Interim Director Sonja Brown in advance of a plan released by the VA in Washington today to possibly close some northern New Mexico community based outpatient clinics (CBOCs).

The plan relayed ahead of time from Washington, D.C. to NMVACHS Director Brown, as she explained to Secretary Smith, is based on today’s VA Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission Report, which recommends closure of VA facilities in areas of the country with declining populations or usage in the Northeast, Midwest, and parts of the rural West—which VA Secretary Denis McDonough believes will allow VA to consolidate, and thus strengthen, veteran health care nationwide.

According to the AIR report, the following New Mexico CBOCs are on the list: Gallup, Las Vegas, Raton, and Española—and that the NW Metro CBOC in Rio Rancho would be relocated to Albuquerque.

The report also recommends expanding and upgrading several divisions at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque—the only VA hospital in the state.

According to the report, the recommendation is for VA to close three medical centers (Brooklyn, NY; Northampton, MA;  and Chllicothe, OH), close 174 of its outpatient health care facilities, and build 255 new facilities. 

“VA came to these recommendations by asking ourselves one question above all else: ‘What’s best for the veterans we serve?’ Because that is our number one goal, today and every day. That’s what our Asset and Infrastructure Review recommendations are all about,” said VA Secretary McDonough in a statement posted on VA’s website. “We’ve spent the last several weeks and months communicating about this with VA employees, union partners, state partners, veteran service organizations, Congress, and more. I’m continuing to consult with our unions, and will do so moving forward, because I so appreciate the strong partnership we have with them.”

In briefing DVS Secretary Smith, NMVAHCS Interim Director Brown stressed that these are only recommendations in the report, that all listings are open for debate, and that any changes would be at least ten to twenty years away. The NMVAHCS will brief DVS at every step along the way. Secretary Smith assured Interim Director Brown that DVS will be an active partner in this process.

“The AIR Commission recommendations not only will impact the veteran community but may also affect the New Mexico health care system.” Secretary Smith said. “DVS has already met with a few veteran service organizations regarding the recommendations. We will be convening a meeting very soon for more discussions and a path forward.”  

Details of VA’s AIR Commission report can be found here.

The New Mexico Department of Veterans Services provides support and services to New Mexico’s 151,000 veterans and their families. DVS treats every veteran, regardless of their rank achieved during military service, with the respect and gratitude befitting someone who has served our country. We strive every day to live up to our agency’s official motto: Serving Those Who Served.

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