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Public Statements

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT.

Mrs. HALVORSON. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Chair, I would first like to take a moment and praise Chairman Obey and Chairman EDWARDS for their continued commitment to caring for American veterans. Three-and-a-half years ago, their committee made a commitment and renewed the promise to care for those who have served in our armed services. They have kept that promise and have dramatically increased funding for our veterans by 70 percent since 2007.

As the only Member of Congress from Illinois who sits on the Veterans' Affairs Committee, I really can speak to the critical need that these funds have addressed for Illinois veterans.

Madam Chair, my amendment is simple. It adds $10 million to the VA Major Construction Project and subtracts $10 million from the general operating expenses. Much of the VA medical infrastructure is aging, outdated and, in many cases, obsolete.

According to the 2011 Independent Budget, which is written by some of the largest Veteran Service Organizations, a great number of current medical facilities were built after World War II and were constructed with structurally obsolete designs which ``typically do not meet the needs of modern health care delivery.'' The result of these outdated buildings has left the VA with a long list of major construction projects, which are just sitting there, waiting for congressional funding.

Right now, there are over 60 medical construction projects in the backlog. That means that there are over 60 locations that are in need of major construction, renovation, or modification. It means that there are 60 locations where our veterans are not receiving optimal care in modern facilities. Unfortunately, this bill was only able to address a total of five of these projects, and only two of them are new medical facilities.

With more women and men servicemembers transitioning from active duty to VA care and with multiple illnesses, such as PTSD and TBI, we will require even more new and modified medical facilities. Though $10 million is far less than what is needed to address these aging medical facilities' infrastructures and construction needs, the amendment will still play a role in ensuring that more veterans are receiving the care they deserve in a modern and quality health care facility. This amendment is also supported by the American Legion.

I urge my colleagues to stand up and to support modern medical facilities for our veterans and to vote ``yes'' on this amendment.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. HALVORSON. Absolutely not.

You have the amendment, as do I, and it just takes $10 million out of the general operating to put it into major construction.

You know, there are needs everywhere. I wish it were in some way to help my district. We have needs, but it does not help my district. This major construction is $28 million less than it was last year. So I would like to see that we gradually get it back up to the $28 million at least that it was last year.

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Mrs. HALVORSON. Madam Chairman, our veterans deserve the best care in the world and at the best and most modern medical facilities, and that's why we're working to accomplish this here. And in this body we need to keep those promises. This is something that is very important, I think, to all of us here in Congress.

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