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Washington, D.C. - Wyoming's Congressional Delegation is pressing the Veterans' Affairs Department to ensure Wyoming veterans continue to have access to quality health care.

U.S. Senators Craig Thomas, Mike Enzi and Representative Barbara Cubin reported after meeting late Tuesday with VA's Acting Under Secretary of Health Dr. Thomas Garthwaite, progress was made on the department's funding distribution formula for the Rocky Mountain region (VISN 19) and on the Cheyenne and Sheridan hospitals specifically.

"There should be no doubt at the VA that veterans in Wyoming are going to be heard on issues related to their health," Thomas said. "The point has clearly been made that rural needs are different and will require sufficient resources to maintain a high level of patient care in the future. Most importantly, that mission will always include the Sheridan and Cheyenne VA," Thomas said.

"Providing veterans health care services in Wyoming presents a unique set of challenges," Enzi said. "The distances are greater and the population is smaller, but the needs of Wyoming veterans are no less significant than in other regions. Our delegation meetings with VA administrators are part of our continuing efforts to educate the administration about those needs and to press for improvement of services," he said.

"I remain solidly committed to our nation's veterans and to ensuring they receive proper medical care -- the care they were promised and deserve," said Cubin. "The GOP-led Congress has consistently increased funding for our veterans. In fact, funding for the VA during the last 10 years has risen from $11 billion to $19 billion, close to a 45% increase, in spite of the fact that for the past three years President Clinton has proposed to freeze the VA budget. This year's House VA appropriations increases funding over the President's request by $1.7 billion. I am committed to ensuring that Wyoming's veterans have the facilities and the care they need."

Cubin said Congress must not only fund the VA at the proper level, but also must exercise its oversight role and make certain the VA provides the services veterans demand. Additionally Cubin will continue to monitor events at the Sheridan and Cheyenne VA facilities, and will discuss patient care and the needs of veterans when she visits the Cheyenne Veterans Hospital next week to meet VA officials and vets.

The delegation said the Under Secretary has assured them that the Cheyenne and Sheridan facilities will remain an integral part of the veterans' health care network in the future.

The VA also said that a new allocation formula for the Rocky Mountain VA Health Care Network will be completed in September. Currently there is an absence of an objective formula to allocate money for facilities within that region, the delegation said.