Today, at the invitation of Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki and Congressman Reyes visited El Paso's Veterans Service Center and met with officials from the Medical Center of the Americas to discuss El Paso's VA expansion and future plans to bring a full-fledged veterans' hospital to the El Paso region. Congressman Reyes and Secretary Shinseki also held a roundtable discussion with local veterans to discuss new initiatives to meet the growing demand of services for our nation's veterans.
"I am pleased that Secretary Shinseki accepted my invitation to visit El Paso to see firsthand the outstanding work of the men and women who serve our nation's veterans," said Congressman Reyes. "In Congress, I worked with my colleagues to increase funding for veterans programs by 60 percent, and that funding will help ensure that we take care of the growing number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans while continuing to improve care for those from previous eras.
"Increasing funding will help us hire more mental health specialists and claims processors, but we also need to ensure that we are allocating resources to the areas with the most need. The expansion of Fort Bliss has led to more soldiers leaving military service and staying in El Paso, and these new veterans will increase demand for services at the El Paso VA. In the short term, El Paso will need additional staff and resources, and I believe that a new VA hospital is needed to meet the needs of our region's veterans. Secretary Shinseki has heard those concerns, and the VA is working to meet the near and long term needs of the El Paso VA," Congressman Reyes said.
In today's meeting Secretary Shinseki and Congressman Reyes focused on three critical priorities to meet the growing population of veterans in El Paso: immediately increasing access to benefits and services for El Paso's veterans through new VA facilities, programs and technology; improve the accessibility of services to save veterans long distance travel; and improve the quality of life for mental health patients by investing in more research and education.
"I greatly appreciate Congressman Reyes bringing Secretary Shinseki to El Paso and providing us this opportunity to brief the highest ranking Department of Veterans Affairs official on the capabilities of the Texas Tech Paul L. Foster Medical School," said Dr. Jose Manuel de la Rosa, Founding Dean for Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center-Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. "From cooperative medical training programs to joint research on subjects like Traumatic Brain Injuries, we want to find ways to support the VA and their mission of ensuring high quality, cutting-edge care for those who have sacrificed so much for our nation
"As we improve and expand health care in El Paso, the VA will be an important partner, and I was honored to have the opportunity to share the vision of the Medical Center of the Americas with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs," said Emma Schwartz, President of the Medical Center of the Americas (MCA) Foundation. "As the El Paso VA plans for future growth, I look forward to continuing our discussion about how we can work together to best serve veterans and all El Pasoans."
Congressman Reyes has been successful in securing unprecedented visits of high level officials to El Paso to draw national attention to border health issues, such as Department of Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius, then-U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
As a Vietnam combat Veteran, Congressman Reyes works to improve and expand benefits and protections for our nation's veterans. Congressman Reyes serves as the third most senior member on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and as the democratic ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces