Commission Report on VA's Realignment Delayed
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America's Veterans


WASHINGTON (Dec. 22, 2003) - The chairman of the independent commission studying the draft plan for restructuring the health care services of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says the panel needs more time.

"We're committed to doing the most thorough job possible. We owe it to our veterans and to the Department of Veterans Affairs to properly examine the 208,000 letters, faxes and e-mails we have received from the public, along with the testimony of more than 770 witnesses who spoke during our 38 field hearings," said Everett Alvarez Jr., the commission's chairman.

Alvarez said the commission's recommendations, originally due to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi in mid December, will now be delivered in four to six weeks. Secretary Principi will then review the commission's findings and make a final decision.

VA's draft realignment plan known as CARES, short for "Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services," is the most comprehensive examination of the department's health care system in decades. The goal is to ensure that VA, which operates 162 hospitals and more than 800 clinics, provides services to veterans where those services are most needed.