Nation Owes It To Local Vets To Listen To Their Concerns
We don’t blame veterans who are concerned with the Veterans Administration’s recent changes to the Jamestown VA Clinic.
Currently located on Third Street, the clinic will move into space on Hazeltine Avenue in Jamestown later this year while decreasing the staff from two full-time equivalents to 1.6 full-time equivalents. There is also concern that the current medical director, Dr. Rudy Mueller, wasn’t consulted about the changes before they were announced.
Michael Swartz, executive director of the VA Western New York Healthcare System, said the number of clinic employees depends on how many veterans the clinic serves. The Jamestown clinic currently serves 1,500 veterans a year, fewer than the 2,100 VA guidelines require for two full-time staff clinicians.
That’s a surprising number given that there are 11,000 veterans in Chautauqua County. By rights, one would think far more than 1,500 veterans would be using the Jamestown clinic, which begs us to ask why aren’t more veterans in the Jamestown area using the VA clinic? Is there a shortcoming of services that has caused people to look elsewhere? Was there a problem with the Third Street location? Are veterans using other clinics in Dunkirk or Warren?
The Veterans Administration must be careful with taxpayer funding. Usually, cost savings are music to our ears. In this case, however, hearing the uncertainty in veterans’ voices outweighs cost savings. Moving into a new space makes sense, but so does keeping the current number of staff until it can be ascertained why usage rates at the city clinic are so low. If there are problems causing people to stay away, they should be remedied as quickly as possible.
Our veterans answered the nation’s call at great cost to their health and well-being. The nation owes it to the local veterans to listen to their concerns.