denismcdonough-150x150One of the nation’s largest health care systems had its ambitious plans to reshape itself for the 21st century torpedoed by a dozen members of the U.S. Senate, with taxpayers and veterans left in the lurch with great uncertainty about the future medical care for those who valiantly have served this country.

Just a few weeks ago, Denis McDonough, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (shown right), met a deadline from Congress to detail significant shifts in how his sprawling agency cares for former military personnel and their families.

He provided a proposal — a plan only — to shut many of the VA’s 1,200 big, aging hospitals and clinics or slash services there, shifting to smaller facilities, and refocusing the agency’s caregiving to parts of the country where its patients live. His plans and the future of VA care, which already have been under study for at least four years, were then to be taken up by a blue-ribbon group, the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission. The commission then would have reported back to Congress for possible action.