Our local VA might not be perfect but let’s hand it to Interim Administrator David Whitmer. In the short 10 months he’s been at the helm in Roseburg, veterans in Curry County have witnessed a complete turnaround in services.

It’s a shame to see Whitmer leaving.

Whitmer arrived last February as interim director to help fix a too-long neglected and broken VA. It was always a temporary job. You couldn’t tell, however, the way Whitmer dug in and implemented change. Hit the ground running is an apt description.

Under Whitmer, the VA clinic in Brookings is a day and night difference compared to the sad excuse that was its past legacy. The new Brookings clinic is twice the size as the old one. Established patients now wait just two days to see a health care provider instead of weeks, or not at all.

Gone, in many cases, are the long and inconvenient trips to Roseburg. Thanks to a beefed-up staff under Whitmer’s leadership, the Brookings clinic also offers sorely needed mental health care services. The average wait for established patients is three days. While there is a 22-day wait for new patients, among Whitmer’s last promises before turning the helm over to a new administrator is that wait time will be slashed, and soon. Given Whitmer’s track record thus far, it’s a pretty good bet that will happen, too.

The list of Whitmer’s accomplishments here goes on and on. Perhaps it’s best to sum it up this way. Where VA town hall meetings were once a shouting match of angry veterans, most meetings these days are rounds of applause for Whitmer and the VA staff.

Whitmer is heading back home to Florida on Dec. 21. His replacement, hired but not yet identified by the VA, has some mighty big shoes to fill.

To Whitmer we say, job well done.

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Editorials are the opinion of the Curry Coastal Pilot Editorial Board, consisting of Publisher Kim Fowler, Editor Robin Fornoff and Features Editor Bill Schlichting.

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