Closure Would Devastate Veterans

* An aftershock to the Jan. 17 earthquake hit the VA Medical Center in North Hills recently, and its potential impact may devastate veterans in the area for years.

The honorable Jesse Brown, secretary of veterans affairs, unveiled a plan that will probably result in the closure of the medical center, which has served the San Fernando Valley and northern communities for almost 40 years.

Several weeks ago, the seemingly omnipotent chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery (D-Miss.) announced support for post-quake rebuilding of the center. On March 8, the Southern California contingent in the House of Representatives sent Mr. Brown a letter making irrefutable arguments in favor of rebuilding the medical center. This letter was signed by Reps. Bob Dornan and Maxine Waters and everyone in between the political poles they represent.

Veteran patients from the North Hills medical center and their families do not want to travel to West Los Angeles for care. Right or wrong, many of them perceive great differences between the two facilities. These perceived differences will result in a large number of our patients choosing alternatives to continued VA care.

Why Secretary Brown would propose an almost universally rejected idea is beyond understanding. To do so in the nation's second-largest media market during an election year is lunacy. To give opponents of the President's health care plan fodder--"He has broken long-standing promises concerning health care to veterans; can you trust him with your health care?"--is political suicide.

This proposal will fail. It will cost the President and others politically. As a lifelong Democrat, I am considering the unspeakable: voting Republican.



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