Senators Seek Quick Action on Stalled VA Projects

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By Debbie Gregory.

A group of senators are urging quick action from the lame duck Congress on two dozen stalled VA projects.

The senators are calling for Congress to set aside funding for a list of health care centers, outpatient clinics and research facilities proposed throughout the Veterans Affairs system. The list includes three each in California and Florida, research facilities in Boston and Charleston, S.C., and a business office in Denver.

In South Hampton Roads, the proposed 155,200-square-foot facility is aimed at easing the workload at the Hampton VA Medical Center, where demand has skyrocketed. Patient visits in Hampton’s service area increased by 30.5 percent from 2011 to September 2014. The national average across the VA system was 8.6 percent during that time.

The Hampton Roads center would offer primary and specialty care, day surgery, an eye clinic, pharmacy and radiology services. Two similar centers are operating in North Carolina, another high-growth area for veterans care.

While Trump has talked about improving  veterans’ health care, it is unclear how these proposed projects would fare under his administration.

Supporters say a plan that leans more on private hospitals would give veterans additional choices. Critics fear it marks the first step toward privatization of veterans health care and abandonment of long-held promises for retired service members.

VA hospitals could concentrate on military-specific areas for which it has expertise, such as traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Supporters say this would not lead to a dismantling of the VA health system. The federal government would still bear responsibility for veterans health care.

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