News release from Congressman Marlin Stutzman:
Stutzman and Senators Seek Answers from VA Amid Confusion
(April 26, 2011) – Congressman Marlin Stutzman (IN-03) held a Press Conference at his Fort Wayne District Office this afternoon to begin to clear up confusion as to the future of the Fort Wayne VA Hospital and the Veterans it serves. On April 19 Stutzman and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) sent a letter to Secretary Eric Shinseki of the Department of Veterans Affairs asking questions pertaining to the future of the Fort Wayne VA Hospital and the recent announcement of the inclusion of an Outpatient Clinic Lease for a mental health annex in the VA’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Budget Submission. The letter also questions language of concern to both Senators and Congressman Stutzman that appeared in a March 25 letter from Sec. Shinseki to Congressman Stutzman that characterized the decision to lease space for a mental health annex.
The March 25 letter from the Secretary and the mixed messages the public has received over the last few years concerning the possibility of a new Fort Wayne Health Care Center spurred the writing of the April 19 letter to Secretary Shinseki. This letter hopes to shed light on the VA’s process and assessment of veterans’ needs in the area. Yesterday, , while back home in the district, Congressman Stutzman was in contact with the VA officials in Washington D.C. after their receipt of the April 19 letter. The VA not only confirmed that they received the April 19th letter, they recognized the 2009 commitment to build a HealthCare Center (HCC) in Fort Wayne that would have eliminated inpatient care in the Fort Wayne facility, sending Veterans in need to the Indianapolis Campus or creating a partnership with a local hospital for inpatient care. Given the strong protest from the veteran community to remove inpatient services, the Department of Veterans Affairs moved in a different direction and did not submit the proposal to Congress.
“Looking back, I believe the decision by the VA not to close inpatient care in Indiana’s second largest city was a wise one for Fort Wayne area veterans. However, VA then needed to reassess how to best meet Northeast Indiana’s most critical veteran needs. After careful study, I believe the 27,000 square foot mental health care annex included in VA’s FY 2012 Budget Submission is a strong step forward,” Stutzman explained.
Recently, the VA requested funding to expand the current Fort Wayne Campus by including an â€˜annex’ to house services including a mental health clinic, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) clinic, substance abuse clinic, telephone triage, and fee services programs.
“The delivery of healthcare services to veterans in Northeast Indiana is of critical importance, and I am hopeful that this letter will advance the dialogue between the congressional delegation and the VA as we move toward a long-term solution.” – Senator Dick Lugar.
“Most importantly, I have been assured by VA officials that the Fort Wayne VA Hospital is safe in its current state, including inpatient care. Secondly, an annex will be leased to supplement critical mental health services.” Stutzman stated.
Congressman Stutzman represents the 3rd Congressional District of Indiana and serves on the House Committee on Agriculture, the House Committee on the Budget and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. Indiana’s 3rd District contains all of DeKalb, Kosciusko, Lagrange, Noble, Steuben, and Whitley counties; as well as parts of Allen and Elkhart counties.