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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

Vets picket VA hospital in Spokane over cuts to physical therapy program

Veterans in Spokane picketed the Mann-Grandstaff Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Monday over changes to a physical therapy program.

A group of aging vets gathered at Wellesley Avenue and Assembly Street asking motorists to sign a petition against the cuts.

At issue is a physical therapy program used by about 65 veterans. The “minimally supervised group” could use the VA’s physical therapy equipment without direct supervision from a therapist.

But up to 30 of those vets were using the program after their doctor’s referral to physical therapy had expired. A letter sent to the vets on Aug. 19 said all 65 would need a current medical referral to continue physical therapy at the VA.

Charlie Monroe, one of the veterans on the picket line, said the physical therapy program that was eliminated was “the best program this hospital ever had.”

He said many veterans had improved health as a result of it.

Bret Bowers, spokesman for the medical center, said the VA has had a dramatic increase in the number of patients using physical therapy, and the change was made to create more physical therapy openings for veterans with acute cases.

“We care tremendously about veterans,” Bowers said.

Bowers said the VA is currently treating nearly 4,000 vets with physical therapy at the Spokane medical center, more than double the number being treated in 2010.

The VA has logged 14,700 appointments for treatment this year, more than double the number six years ago.

Bowers said vets who want to maintain an exercise program are eligible for a discounted rate at the YMCA.

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