Childcare facility at local VA hospital to close

TACOMA, Wash. -- A daycare at American Lake VA in Tacoma will be closing its doors in less than six weeks.

The facility opened in September of 2011 as a federally funded two-year pilot project. It's one of four childcare centers nationwide designed to serve veterans with children who are seeking medical care through VA hospitals and clinics.

However, federal lawmakers failed to allocate funds to keep the daycare centers open. The Tacoma facility will close its doors for good on September 30.

"It really worked wonderfully. Why would you get rid of it? It's just disappointing," said John Walin, who seeks medical care at the hospital up to five times a month.

The Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq brings his 2-year old daughter to the daycare when he visits the doctor.

Walin said the facility has made it much easier to attend doctor's appointments because it's a safe place for his daughter while he seeks important medical care.

According the VA of Puget Sound, over the last two years attendance at the American Lakes property has steadily increased. In July they had their busiest month so far, serving nearly 400 children.

"We know it's giving families another way to access care by being able to drop off their child in a safe environment while they go and seek their healthcare," said Chad Hutson, a public affairs officer with VA Puget Sound Healthcare System.

It's not clear why Congress chose to stop funding the daycare facilities, but it means hundreds of military families that need childcare in order to get medical care could have to go without.

"I think the next best hope is that Congress comes together and realizes the importance of the program and how it's benefiting veterans and makes a decision to continue funding it or make it a permanent part of the VA," said Hatson.

Senator Patty Murray's office says they are looking at every avenue to extend the program. But it's unclear when that could happen.