Proposed VA closing prompts large turnout


New Boston CBOC safe, says Ruby

By Bill Shope - For the Daily Times



Stacia Ruby, Public Affairs Officer at the VA in Ross County speaks to a crowd of 200 or more veterans about the possibility of the VA in Chillicothe closing.

Stacia Ruby, Public Affairs Officer at the VA in Ross County speaks to a crowd of 200 or more veterans about the possibility of the VA in Chillicothe closing.


Photo by Bill Shope | For The Daily Times

PORTSMOUTH — Thursday morning saw a packed house in the auditorium of American Legion Post #23, as John Ryan, State Director from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s office attended a public meeting to discuss the possible closing of the Chillicothe’s Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospital and facility. Stacia Ruby, Public Affairs Officer at the VA in Ross County, was also in attendance.

Before the meeting began, Bill Dillon Veteran’s Service Officer of the Scioto County Veteran’s Commission shared his thoughts.

“We’re concerned about the potential closure of the Chillicothe VA Center and the effects it will have on Appalachian Ohio. I think, if it happens, it will be bad-it will put a financial strain on all of the veterans because they will have to travel farther for their medical care. We need to hear what they have to say and we’ll see from that point on.”

After Ryan addressed those in attendance, Ruby took the floor to give a brief overview of what has exactly transpired to this point in time, before hearing the concerns of the veterans and family members in attendance.

“Senators Brown and (Rob) Portman both wrote a letter to the VA expressing their severe concern about any closure at the Chillicothe VA. This is a needed facility and the way they went through the pandemic came, the staff and administration were simply fantastic and worked every day to ensure the quality of care to the veterans they serve,” Ryan said. Ryan added that he and others will be meeting with the staff at the VA for their input.

Ruby, employed at the VA for 25 years, took the floor and quickly dispelled an aspect of a rumor that has circulated about the potential shutdown.

“I’m in charge of outreach and I go out to the communities we serve and we do not want veteran’s care impacted-it’s something I believe in. That being said…the new facility in New Boston is not scheduled to be a part of any closures. It is a new and beautiful facility, even though the same set of recommendations moved to close the Chillicothe campus.” Ruby’s declaration brought a rousing cheer from the large crowd.

The facility to which Ruby referred is called a CBOC, short for a “Community-Based Outpatient Clinic” that provides outpatient services for primary care, mental health and some unspecified specialty services to veterans.

Also according to Ruby, the idea for the closures came as the result of The VA Mission Act of 2018, legislation that established a market assessment report to help VA’s nationwide increase positive Veteran outcomes, as well as the quality of care.

The report coming out of the assessment concluded that relocating inpatient acute mental health and residential rehab treatment programs to a Dayton VA center, as well as moving half of the nursing home beds to the Dayton facility and the other half heading to a new facility in Circleville. The report also stated there should be an increased collaboration with VA centers at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as well as other locations including Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland. Many of the veterans in attendance were not pleased with the plan, which Ruby said she didn’t believe should be implemented.

Jeff Walburn, was passionate about the potential changes.

“Five times I was deployed-my father was in the Battle of the Bulge and my brother and I joined during the Vietnam War. I believe this is happening to us because we are Appalachian and we are vulnerable. We’re easy pickings for these people that we have fought wars for, at this moment, there are probably 50,000 veterans on the street that don’t have health care and they are wanting to cut our benefits by cutting our facilities?”

Walburn’s voice rose as he spoke to the crowd of 200 plus, “That is about the craziest damn thing I have ever heard! It’s time that this country stands up for the people that made this country! Hoo-Rah!” as the crowd stood and applauded.

Sam McKibbin, a long-time veteran as well as a veteran’s advocate, told The Portsmouth Daily Times, “As one of five officers on the Veteran’s Commission, we serve over 5,000 veterans here in Scioto County and I heard some good comments in the meeting today. I thought everyone that spoke was clear and diplomatic and I hope what we had to say today does some good. There are approximately 1,200 employees up there that care about veterans and I’m concerned about what might happen to them if this goes through.”

If it does go through, it looks like it may not be for a while. The proposed moves at this point, are merely recommendations. The Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission has at least one more year to review the analysis of the review and to hear testimony from those greatly affected by any potential reduction in services. Ultimately, the final determination will rest with President Joe Biden and the Congress, who to this stage, have not offered an inclination as to a collective direction.

If any veterans or their families have questions about the potential changes being floated, you may contact Ruby at (740) 772-7082.

“There is no need at this point for a knee-jerk reaction or panic at this moment- but I would instead, contact all of your officeholders, especially your representatives and senators,” Ruby offered.

Stacia Ruby, Public Affairs Officer at the VA in Ross County speaks to a crowd of 200 or more veterans about the possibility of the VA in Chillicothe closing.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/03/web1_IMG_4068.jpgStacia Ruby, Public Affairs Officer at the VA in Ross County speaks to a crowd of 200 or more veterans about the possibility of the VA in Chillicothe closing. Photo by Bill Shope | For The Daily Times
New Boston CBOC safe, says Ruby

By Bill Shope

For the Daily Times