Buyer Visits Minnesota Polytrauma Center

Washington, D.C. Chairman Steve Buyer and Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) on Tuesday inspected the care being provided to veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom recovering from combat wounds at the VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center (PRC) in Minneapolis, Minn.

We who have served have a responsibility that does not end with our uniformed service, said Buyer, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm.  We must ensure that the VA system is properly equipped and its staff is well trained, so that when our servicemembers come back and need VA, it is there for them.

During their visit to the center, which is part of the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, Buyer and Kline spoke with staff and patients.  The center is one of VA’s four regional PRCs.  It provides rehabilitation care for veterans returning from combat with severe injuries that may include traumatic brain injuries, amputations, blindness or hearing disorders, complex orthopedic injuries, and mental health concerns.  The other VA PRCs are in Palo Alto, Calif.; Richmond, Va.; and Tampa, Fla.


There is nothing like being on-site and listening to the people who are actually giving the care and to the people who are actually getting the care, Kline, a retired U.S. Marine colonel, said.

Patients in the centers have typically been treated at military treatment facilities and are transferred to the VA at a time coordinated between the military and VA for longer term rehabilitation.  The center’s chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Dr. Barbara Sigford, said that almost half of patients have mental health concerns in addition to their other injuries.

We are here because polytrauma is a prime example of battlefield-to-health care – seamless transition from DoD to VA, Buyer said.

Buyer and Kline spoke privately with a wounded veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an Army sergeant who praised his care at the PRC and compared it to the care he got at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. 

Rhetoric criticizing the Administration for its lack of care and compassion for our combat wounded is inaccurate, has a corrosive effect on those who are serving, and creates doubt whether care will be there for them if they need it, Buyer said.

The system is not without flaws that must be corrected.  VA staff told Buyer and Kline of problems they encounter getting complete medical records.  Concerns about the sharing of sensitive personal information have impeded timely exchange of critical medical information between VA and DoD.  VA thus depends on what military hospitals provide them.  That makes VA’s job tougher.

We have been at this for three years and we still have VA facilities across from military facilities and they can’t talk to each other. This is a leadership problem, Buyer said.  We have great doctors, nurses, therapists and volunteers ensuring high-quality care we saw that here today.  They deserve the best systems to back them up, and that’s our responsibility in Washington.

As a veteran and a Member of Congress I am encouraged by what we saw today, Kline said.  The high standard of care provided to the patients at this facility is far beyond what was available to me and my contemporaries during my 25 years of service.  I look forward to continuing to work with Chairman Buyer to ensure the standard remains high and our veterans continue to receive unparalleled care.


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