When veterans make a commitment to serve our country, we make a commitment to support them upon their return. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities are crucial to providing this care and ensuring the physical and mental health of our veterans.
The importance of the VA health system is no different in Chillicothe. I know what this facility means to thousands of South Central and Southeast Ohio veterans, their families, and to the entire Chillicothe community, employing about 1,400 individuals and serving more than 20,000 veterans each year.
That’s why, when VA recently recommended a sweeping overhaul of VA medical facilities and the closing of the Chillicothe VA Medical Center, I leapt into action. I held roundtables to hear directly from veterans and employees and listened to their stories to learn what closing the facility would mean for Ohio veterans and Southeast Ohio.
I urged VA Secretary McDonough to come to Chillicothe so he could see the Medical Center’s positive impact on the community for himself. In April, he joined Sen. (Rob) Portman and me at the facility, where we heard from veterans and the VA employees who serve them. One of the constant refrains from local veterans was that arriving at the Chillicothe Medical Center is like coming home. The VA employees treat them like family and veterans don’t want to get their medical care elsewhere.
Earlier this week, my colleagues and I released a statement opposing the AIR Commission process and effectively stopping the process in the Senate. I am pleased to announce that the Chillicothe VA will remain open, and veterans in southern Ohio will continue to receive care at the facility. I am committed to investing in modern VA infrastructure in a way that upholds our obligations to our nation’s veterans, and I am dedicated to providing VA with the resources and tools it needs to continue delivering quality care to veterans in 21st century facilities. That’s a promise.
Nothing is more important than honoring our promise to veterans, and we cannot leave Ohio’s veterans behind. I am honored to be the longest serving Ohioan on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and representing Ohio’s 700,000 veterans is a duty I take very seriously.
Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.