Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan and Congressman Antonio Delgado announced on Thursday, April 14 that they will be holding a hearing to collect testimony from veterans and other individuals impacted by the potential closure of the Castle Point VA Medical Center. The hearing will take place on Thursday, April 21st, at 12:30 p.m., at the VFW 8645 in New Paltz. All comments collected will be provided to the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission who will ultimately make a recommendation to the President and Congress on the potential closure of the facility.
“The VA’s recommendation to close the Castle Point VAMC is completely unacceptable, and our entire community – especially the tens of thousands of veterans and military families who rely on this facility – feels like the VA is turning its back on us,” Ryan said. “Congressman Delgado and I are bringing together those most impacted, to elevate their concerns, and ensure that those in charge of determining the future of this critical facility understand the importance it has in so many of our veterans’ lives.”
“It is critical that policymakers in Washington hear directly from our local veterans on the potential impacts of closing the Castle Point VAMC – how it would increase travel times and render essential VA services less accessible,” Delgado added. “Castle Point cannot close unless the VA ensures that every veteran who uses it will maintain equally accessible, high-quality care through a VA facility in the Hudson Valley. I look forward to the discussion and will do everything I can to further amplify the concerns that are raised.”
“We were at war for over twenty years,” Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Center for Veteran Reintegration Kevin Keaveny said. “Why Now, as combat operations dwindle and the men and women of our country desperately need services provided by the Veterans administration, would we even consider closing a single facility. This is a slap in the face of the Veteran community.”
The Veterans Administration realignment report calls for the closure of Castle Point VAMC and proposes downgrading to an outpatient clinic (CBOC) to serve the region, which would remove all inpatient services and close an existing fully-occupied senior living center (CLC). In addition, the VA’s report recommends that other local and regional hospitals could “absorb” the growing demand for inpatient and urgent care services in the Hudson Valley, which is concerning given recent divestments by WMC in mental health and addiction recovery services in Ulster County and compounding layoffs of over 40 senior staff members at end of 2021. The report will now undergo a one-year committee review.
Ulster County has over 11,000 veterans who currently access VA services at Albany Stratton Veteran Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) and Castle Point VAMC. Currently the Ulster County Veteran Services Agency transports thousands of veterans annually to both of these locations. Veterans in Ulster County, depending on where they live, already travel up to an hour for these essential services.
Last month, County Executive Pat Ryan, Congressman Antonio Delgado, and other leaders and veterans held a rally against the potential closure of the facility. In addition, Congressman Delgado recently submitted a letter to Secretary McDonough regarding the potential closure.