VA clinic closure recommendation opposes Navajo Nation legislation

FARMINGTON — A new bill aims to get the Navajo Nation to oppose a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs proposal to close four outpatient clinics in New Mexico.

The VA recommended closing clinics in Gallup, Española, Las Vegas and Raton, in part to centralize medical services at larger facilities and because patient volumes at all four clinics have declined over the past five years.

The proposal was included in the Asset and Infrastructure Review Report released by the VA in March.

Shortly after it was released, Delegate Kee Allen Begay Jr. spoke out against the recommendation because the clinics provide essential services to Navajo veterans, who travel miles and miles for medical care.

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“Demanding quality care and access to telehealth services is unavailable to many of our veterans returning to the Navajo Nation,” Begay said in a statement. “This is unacceptable, and the Veterans Administration must consult with our tribal communities before any closures.”

“The Navajo Nation understands that the closure of the community outpatient clinic in Gallup, New Mexico would disadvantage Navajo veterans who receive care at this facility, as veterans would be forced to travel even further afield to receive health care. VA health,” the bill says.

The legislation, sponsored by Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton, was posted on the Council of the Navajo Nation website on April 22.

In addition to declaring the tribe’s opposition, the bill directs the VA Assets and Infrastructure Review Board to review, analyze, and recommend outpatient clinics or the construction of a facility. VA health care on the Navajo Nation.

The tribe called on Congress and presidents to establish direct services for Navajo veterans in resolutions passed by council delegates in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

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Since the VA released its report in March, members of the New Mexico congressional delegation have spoken out against the proposed closures.

The recommendations outlined in the report are the first step in a multi-year process, including further consideration by Congress and the President, according to the Tribal Chairman’s Office.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for the Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at [email protected].

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