BUFFALO, N.Y. — A new plan could be in the works to build new VA hospitals in both Buffalo and Batavia. They would replace aging, obsolete facilities that date back to the 1930s and 40s.
And some people feel the need for state-of-the-art facilities may be crucial in the coming decades.
Western New York is regarded as a proud and patriotic place with good reason as we hear from veteran advocate Patrick Welch who served in the Vietnam War.
He notes, "If you look at the eight counties of Western New York, our veteran population is in the area of about 150,000."
And all those men and women depend on federally promised health care and support from facilities in Batavia and on Bailey Avenue in Buffalo. Both those hospitals with faded glory, according to Welch.
"I think it's one of only two hospitals at this point in the system that is not up to date with things like air conditioning," Welch said.
So now there's future planning by the VA to replace both. Possibly a $1 billion project in Buffalo to be located somewhere on or near the Buffalo Medical Campus. Perhaps vacant land at the intersection of Main and Best is listed as a suggested site.
And as we see our veterans from World War II and Korea aging out with infirmities, those from Vietnam and then the Gulf wars and Afghanistan are dealing with combat injuries such as brain injuries and lost limbs, or severe PTSD, and perhaps much more from modern war.
Welch says: "There's an awful lot of veterans that are coming up with issues now related to Agent Orange, and we haven't been there for 50 to 55 years, and that's going to get worse. Prior to the War on Terror, veteran usage of the VA was in the range of about 30 percent of the veteran population using it. It's now upwards of 45 to 50 percent."
As President Joe Biden has referred to the death from cancer of his veteran son Beau, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins of Buffalo says he's seen it: potential exposure to burn pits.
"It's very noxious, and a long-term exposure to that is potentially lethal," he said.
Higgins also reflects on the real need at stake here with new facilities.
"The real measure of our commitment to our veterans is our ability to care for them long term. We as a nation have to do a much better job," Higgins said.