There’s a 14-letter word that’s treated like a four-letter word in Washington, but it could be back in political jargon, and not very soon. It helped save a much-needed facility that shouldn’t have been jeopardized in the first place.
The term is “bipartisanship” and blocked a Veterans Affairs reorganization plan that resulted in the closure of Edward P. Boland VA Medical Center.
U.S. Representative James McGovern, D-Worcester, said veterans serving at the facility shouldn’t have faced the worry of a possible closure in the first place. Fortunately, the region has some influence in Washington, led by US Representative Richard Neill, D-Springfield, as Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and McGovern as Chair of the House Rules Committee.
This time he needed the support of senators, a dozen of whom blocked the reorganization. They were made up of equal parts Republicans and Democrats.
They didn’t do it as a civics lesson: the plan negatively impacted red and blue states equally, though Boland Medical Center was one of only three to have closed.
Nonetheless, their response is saving a facility built 99 years ago and serving 21,000 veterans in west and central Massachusetts. Veterans in Hampshire and Franklin counties would have faced loss of service, particularly in Connecticut, along with having to travel long distances for treatment at VA facilities.
The burden on veterans and their families was not only impractical, but also reflected a lack of gratitude for their service. And frankly, it would have been brutal.
The closure of the plant also makes no economic sense. More than $108 million has recently been invested in upgrading the Northampton site, with an additional $93 million planned.
This medical facility needs to be modernized and not closed. In the meantime, it continues to serve the veterans who have relied on it with their families.
The men and women who have served this country deserve the care and treatment this medical center provides every day. When it was discontinued, there was no viable alternative.
Stopping this misguided plan serves as an example that even in this polarized political climate, and perhaps especially, bipartisan legislation and shared preferences can produce adequate results.