April 20, 2022

San Diego Union-Tribune: Secretary of Veterans Affairs highlights renaming of San Diego’s VA Medical Center during visit

LA JOLLA — Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough highlighted challenges such as transportation support and homelessness during a visit Wednesday to the Veterans Affairs medical center in San Diego.

“We won’t rest until every vet is housed ... no veteran should live homeless,” said McDonough, who served as White House chief-of-staff during the Obama administration. He said the federal government plans to move 38,000 homeless vets across the nation into permanent housing this year.

He also championed the role of women veterans, the fastest growing cohort of veterans in the VA system. The medical center was recently approved to be renamed to honor of Capt. Jennifer Moreno, an Army nurse from Logan Heights, who was killed in 2013 during a Special Operations raid in Afghanistan.

“Her story is inspiring,” said McDonough about Moreno, a highly-decorated combat veteran who was killed in action. “Her family’s commitment to this facility is awe-inducing, and importantly, her story reflects the increasingly central role that women play in the United States Armed Forces.”

President Joe Biden signed legislation in March renaming the medical center the “Jennifer Moreno Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.” The formal renaming ceremony scheduled for this summer will make it the first VA medical facility in the nation to be named after a Latina veteran.
The bill was written by Rep. Mike Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano, who serves as the vice chair of the House Veterans Affairs committee and who hosted McDonough on his tour in San Diego.

“I approach my work on the Veterans Affairs committee as the proud grandson of a World War II veteran. I grew up with a deep appreciation for his service and I’m incredibly grateful for the service of American men and women around the world who’ve dedicated their lives to the same mission as my grandfather, keeping our nation safe and free,” said Levin at an afternoon news briefing about McDonough’s visit.

Rep. Levin and Secretary McDonough met earlier Wednesday with local veterans and employees at the Oceanside VA Clinic and the San Marcos Vet Center to receive feedback and “to learn about the impact of national-level decisions on local VA operations and services.”

McDonough said some challenges he heard during his conversations Wednesday included uneven authorities for transportation support within the VA system, San Diego’s tight housing market and “continuing to be able to pay providers wages where we remain competitive and where they can live at this level of cost-of-living ...”

He also stressed the necessity of long-term planning given the United States’ recent extended periods of conflict.

“As we see troops mobilizing again, and as we obviously make prudent decisions to ensure we’re right-postured given the nature of challenges we face, it is true that a very deployed force continues to be under pressure, and so it’s only prudent, but it’s also our solemn obligation to prepare to care for all those people,” said McDonough.

Rep. Levin and Sec. McDonough planned to visit Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.


By:  Wendy Fry
Source: San Diego Union-Tribune