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Westfair Online: Opposition grows to VA plan for closing HV facilities

With the ink barely dry on a March 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs containing recommendations for changes at VA facilities throughout the U.S., adverse reaction is building to some of what is proposed for VA medical facilities in the Hudson Valley.

The report recommends closing the Castle Point VA Medical Center in Wappingers Falls, closing the Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Goshen and moving services now offered in Goshen to a clinic in Middletown. It also recommends discontinuing urgent care services now offered at the Montrose VA Medical Center and having community providers take over, and possibly opening an outpatient clinic in Fishkill.

The VA report says that the number of veterans receiving medical services in Dutchess County and elsewhere in the Hudson Valley has been declining. It projects that by Fiscal Year 2029, there will be only 5,688 veterans receiving services in Dutchess. It says the low demand for services creates a challenge to maintaining medical programs and staffing levels. The VA points out that the Castle Point center was built in 1923.

“The current infrastructure and layout do not meet modern health care standards, and the existing facility requires significant capital investment,” the VA report says. “There are 4,998 beds within a 60-minute drive time of the (Castle Point Medical Center) with an average occupancy rate of 76.1%. With the declining population, low demand, substantial maintenance cost, and high-quality community partners for inpatient care nearby, veterans can sustainably receive care in the community.”

Officials, including State Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, and Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater have joined with others to oppose any cutbacks by the VA.

Schmitt said, “This is about fulfilling our nation’s promise to those who were willing to sacrifice life and limb for this country. It is unacceptable for the federal government to reduce services and increase travel distance for our veterans seeking medical care.”

Molinaro, referencing the possibility of a new clinic in Fishkill, said, “While a brand new, state-of-the-art VA facility in Dutchess County is welcome, we need absolute assurance that there will be no reduction in services, and Castle Point will not close until the new facility is fully operational. The Biden Administration’s decision to close Castle Point leaves too many open-ended questions that should have been addressed prior to this ham-handed announcement.”

Byrne said of Castle Point, “This facility services the entire greater Hudson Valley area and our military veterans. We cannot accept any plan that would result in a reduction of services for our military heroes.”

Slater stated, “As supervisor of Yorktown, we will be sending a resolution to our federal delegation condemning this proposal and standing against any cut in services at Castle Point. They have fought for us and now we will fight for them.”

Karl Rohde, director of the Putnam County Veterans Service Agency, expressed concern that a veteran living in Carmel and currently being treated at Castle Point may some day be told to drive 100 miles away in order to receive medical treatment.

Jack Duncan, commandant of the Putnam County Marine Corps League, recalled that both his grandfather who fought in World War I and his father who was in the military in World War II were treated at Castle Point.

“I am a veteran with a service-related disability and have received treatment here. This facility is important,” Duncan said.

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