Federal officials weigh in on future of Salem VA Medical Center

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 9:02 PM EDT
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SALEM, Va. (WDBJ) - A year and a half after the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recommended major changes at the Salem VA Medical Center, the proposal is not advancing. But the discussion of how to modernize the VA, and best serve the nation’s veterans, continues.

The recommendations to a federal commission were controversial, and stalled in the face of strong opposition from members of Congress. That included the proposal that would have closed the Salem VA Medical Center and relocated services to a smaller facility in Roanoke.

We recently asked federal officials where the process stands now.

When VA Secretary Denis McDonough visited Salem to sign a new collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees, he told reporters the VA continues to consider how to improve the system, working with labor organizations, veterans and others, while keeping a central focus on the health care it delivers.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) said he believes the VA’s presence in the Roanoke Valley will endure.

“I would not worry living in the Roanoke Valley, or if you’re a veteran who’s been using the Salem VA, I would not worry that this is going to move somewhere else,” Kaine said.

During a visit to Roanoke Friday, he said the age of the facilities in Salem is a continuing concern.

“Obviously the Salem VA has a lot of infrastructure that’s really old. And when you have a lot of really old buildings, you’re doing your best to make them fit for 21st century use, but it can be hard,” Kaine said. “So you could see significant renovations there.”

“You could see a little more diffusion in the region, but I don’t think you’re going to see a shrinking of capacity in the region,” Kaine said.

Rebecca Stackhouse, Executive Director of the Salem VA Health Care System released the following statement Tuesday.

“Veterans, employees, and potential employees should be assured that the VA will continue to serve the Veterans of southwest Virginia. Since being commissioned in 1934, the Salem VA Health Care System has evolved to continue to meet the changing needs of Veterans. For example, we have five VA Clinics located in Tazewell, Danville, Lynchburg, Wytheville, and Staunton to help serve Veterans who live farther away from Salem. Additionally, we have recently implemented several mobile telehealth sites throughout our catchment area to make accessing VA services easier. Working with community partners, leveraging medical technology, and being flexible and embracing changes that better serve Veterans has been the hallmark of our 89 years of providing outstanding healthcare, treatment, and services to Veterans. I expect the same to be true in the decades to come.”