BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mrs. ADAMS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring attention to the ongoing troubles at the VA and its apparent inability to effectively manage major construction projects, specifically, the new veterans hospital at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Orlando, Florida, in my congressional district.
Our Nation's veterans have served our country honorably, putting everything on the line to protect our freedoms. After all they have done for us, it is Congress' duty to ensure that our veterans' service-connected medical needs are taken care of.
The American people were told that for $665 million they would receive a state-of-the-art medical facility to care for the hundreds of thousands of veterans in central Florida, which is one of the most underserved veteran populations in this country. This project is desperately needed in our community. Our veterans cannot wait any longer, nor can hardworking taxpayers afford more expensive delays.
Recently, Chairman Miller held a hearing with the Veterans' Affairs committee to examine these delays. During the hearing, it became clear that incompetence and a lack of leadership from the VA is to blame for the egregious amount of errors with this project. Those errors include forgetting to order medical equipment, designing incompatible power sources in patient rooms, and designing doorways too small for the equipment that needs to get through them. These basic design errors are absolutely unacceptable, and we must hold the VA accountable for them.
While I am not a member of the committee, I felt it was my duty, as the Representative for central Florida veterans, to participate in the hearings and conduct the oversight necessary to get answers and move the project forward.
Having toured the hospital construction site recently, I knew that the project was behind schedule and over budget. Listening to the hearing testimony, coupled with seeing the site firsthand, reinforced the fact that the VA has fallen down on the job and is failing our veterans.
Veterans in my district have to drive hundreds of miles in some cases to get the cure and the care they need and have been promised--they've been promised--in return for their service to our Nation. These are often elderly men and women who cannot afford the trips. And we have young veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have sustained injuries that make those long trips incredibly painful.
This is not the best we can offer; and we should be ashamed, in the VA, that those brave warriors have to travel long distances with the vague hope of getting the care they need. The VA can do better. We can do better.
Today's consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill helps put the VA's feet to the fire and will spur them to return the focus to our veteran population and not on bureaucratic mismanagement and political infighting.
The language of the bill makes it clear that, while the hospital construction remains fully funded, it is no longer an open-ended construction project with bills to be paid years into the future. The legislation states quite clearly that funds obligated to complete construction have to be spent within 5 years. The message should be heard loud and clear by the VA: get your management in gear and finish this hospital.
Mr. Speaker, the delays at this hospital are despicable, and the inability of the VA to provide what our veterans have been promised is unacceptable. Our veterans and their families have put everything on the line to defend our country. Making sure their service-connected needs are taken care of is the very least we can do to repay our Nation's heroes.