CHEYENNE, Wyo. | The Veterans Affairs Department downgraded the complexity level of its Cheyenne hospital to its lowest level, prompting the state's congressional delegation to demand an explanation.
The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported Saturday the VA Medical Center in Cheyenne is now rated at Level 3, indicating it has low levels of patient complexity and little or no teaching and research.
It had been Level 2.
Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso and Rep. Liz Cheney, all Republicans, wrote VA Secretary David Shulkin Jan. 26, expressing concern that the hospital's services and funding would be reduced.
A VA spokesman said services would not change.
In a written statement Friday, the three lawmakers said, "As a delegation, our primary concern is ensuring that the services available to our veterans at the Cheyenne VA are not impacted, and that veterans in Cheyenne and surrounding areas will still receive the same level of care they need and deserve."
Wyoming's rural character and harsh winters limit veterans' ability to travel to the VA in Denver, they told Shulkin.
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They also said neither they nor the House and Senate veterans committees were consulted about the change. In their letter, they called that unacceptable.
Cheyenne VA Medical Center Director Paul Roberts said the rating has no effect on patient care or services.
"In fact, the Cheyenne VA is growing faster than any other market in our network," Roberts said in an email.
The hospital is part of Veterans Integrated Service Network 19, which includes all or parts of Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.
Roberts said the change would affect pay rates for new executives, but current employees' pay won't change.
The VA's complexity ratings are used for administrative reporting, performance measurement and research studies. The system has five levels: 1a, 1b, 1c, 2 and 3.
The groupings are reviewed and updated every three years.