KUNM

VA Cuts 30 Inpatient Beds

Oct 21, 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced this week that it’s decreasing the beds available at Albuquerque’s VA Medical Center—the only such inpatient facility in New Mexico.

The news that the VA is cutting the number of inpatient beds from 150 to 120 doesn’t sit right with Mike Gallegos, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart Medal recipient from Los Lunas.

Dr. Jaime Robbins addresses the crowd of veterans at the town hall on VA medical care on Wednesday, September 10, 2014.
Credit Marisa Demarco

He said the decision, coupled with an influx of soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, is only going to make lengthy wait times at the VA worse. “It’s going to hurt the veterans coming back because of all the injuries, the trauma injuries, the burn victims, “ he said. “It’s just a sad deal. We’ve all served our country. It’s just so hard to get benefits. It’s always a struggle. It’s like we’re begging for stuff, but it’s not that way. We just need help. “

The VA is working to repair its relationship with veterans in New Mexico and held a town hall last month so patients could air their grievances. Gallegos attended that meeting along with scores of veterans, many of whom spoke about extremely long waits for health care services. Gallegos, a disabled vet who’s classified as a top priority in the system, said it takes three to four months to get a doctor’s appointment.

The VA said in a news release that the bed decrease is intended to boost morale on the nursing staff and help recruit nurses to fill empty positions at the VA—and that patient safety is the highest priority.

Veterans Affairs declined to comment further for this story.

Federal funding for the VA nationwide increased 68 percent between fiscal years 2009 and 2015. The Associated Press reported earlier this month that five VA administrators in New Mexico got over $24,000 in bonuses last year, though bonuses were halted nationally this year.