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Veterans, local officials rally against proposed medical center closure in Northampton

About two dozen people stood outside the Veterans Affairs medical center in Northampton, Massachusetts, in frigid temperatures Monday to protest a proposal to close the facility.

"Why is it always the most vulnerable who get their services closed or taken away?" said Ruby Renaud of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, kicking off the rally. "And why would you do this to the people who stood up for us when we couldn't?"

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recommended the closing in a report earlier in March as part of a larger restructuring, although the plan would still have to go through an approval process, including public hearings.

Veterans, union leaders and local officials weren't waiting to express their opposition.

David Felty, president of the group Homeward Vets, lives about 10 miles away in Southampton. He said he comes to the Northampton facility for many medical issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I see my psychiatric care through here. I have some other issues from the Gulf War, so I do some pulmonary care," he said. "I look at that, me as one person, and then I try to compound that and think about this on a greater scale of how many thousands of veterans this is going to affect or could affect."

The Department of Veterans Affairs has proposed adding or expanding other facilities, but many would be about an hour away.

Karen is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998. Her features and documentaries have won a number of national awards, including the National Edward R. Murrow Award, Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) Award, Third Coast Audio Festival Award, and the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize.
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