Senators reject report calling for facility’s closure
The Castle Point VA Medical Center in Wappingers Falls is off the chopping block.
Members of the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee announced on Monday (June 27) that they would not support an independent commission’s proposal to close the nearly 100-year-old facility and other VA hospitals as part of a reorganization of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The lack of support means the committee is “all but eliminating the commission,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, the Senate’s majority leader, on Tuesday.
Schumer is among the elected officials who joined local veterans in expressing alarm at the proposal released in March by the Independent Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission. Located off of Route 9D, three miles north of Beacon, Castle Point provides outpatient services, inpatient care and a nursing home for former military personnel.
In place of Castle Point, the commission called for building a new outpatient facility somewhere in Fishkill and shifting the other services to community providers and the VA medical center just south of Peekskill, in Montrose.
“We must invest further in bolstering the veteran health care facilities in the Hudson Valley, not strip them away, and the previous plan missed the mark in ensuring the needs of our Mid-Hudson vets came first,” said Schumer.
The report, released on March 14 by VA Secretary Denis McDonough, concluded that Castle Point is underutilized; needs more than $100 million in upgrades and repairs; and is projected to see its number of Dutchess County enrollees fall by 2029 to 5,688, or 20 percent less than in 2019.
It noted that only three of Castle Point’s 26 inpatient beds were occupied on an average day in 2019. The report also recommended that the facility’s 28 nursing home beds, although consistently filled, be moved to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt VA Hospital in Montrose.
Interviewed about the recommended closure in March, Beacon resident Anthony Lassiter said it takes him 10 minutes to reach Castle Point, compared to having to travel to Montrose. Castle Point is also home to his primary care doctor, and is where he fills prescriptions and replaces eyeglasses.
“It would be devastating to the area,” said Lassiter, a U.S. Army and Vietnam War vet who belongs to Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 666 and American Legion Post 203 in Beacon. “I have nothing but high praise for the doctors who I’ve been affiliated with and the facility itself.”
Castle Point opened in 1924. U.S. Rep. Hamilton Fish Sr., acting Beacon Mayor Marcus MacLaughlan and other elected officials attended the dedication.
In addition to treating wounded and disabled veterans — at one time Castle Point specialized in spinal-cord injuries — the medical center became a major employer for residents, including many Blacks who relocated to the Hudson Valley from the segregated South.
Other local officials, including U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, had also criticized the proposal to close Castle Point when the report was released. Maloney’s father was a U.S. Navy veteran.
“I will never support changes that reduce the quality or accessibility of care for our local veterans,” he said.