Last week, our state and our military veterans got some great news at a Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee field hearing I chaired in Omaha. Every witness, including VA officials, agreed that major new construction is needed at the Omaha VA Medical Center. The timeliness of this hearing became more pronounced after the VA released a feasibility study on the facility earlier in the week. The study outlined five renovation options, ranging from partial renovation to major new construction. I am very pleased that the recommended option in the feasibility study recognizes the need for significant new construction, which was unanimously reinforced at the hearing.
There is no doubt this facility is worn out, much like a 1950 Chevy in need of replacement. We all agreed it is our responsibility to see that this new facility for our veterans is achieved. These veterans, who throughout their lives always put their country first, deserve much more than an outdated facility. One of the witnesses at the hearing was Donald Orndoff, Director of the VA Office of Construction and Facilities Management. He let us know that the Omaha VA Medical Center is very high on the priority list at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
David Brown, President of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, noted the Omaha community has a strong history of investing in economic growth opportunities that benefit our citizens, including about $11 billion over the past five years. A new VA Medical Center will be a large undertaking. But the issues outlined in the feasibility study make a compelling case for modernization. Our veterans are worth the investment and I know Omaha can handle a project of this magnitude.
Specifically, Director Orndorff recommended a plan "similar in size and scope" to a proposal outlined in the feasibility study which would expand the VA Medical Center by 754,000 square feet. Most of this expansion would be two new onsite patient facilities. One building would overhaul the surgical suite and would provide the Medical Center with state-of-the-art surgical equipment. The second building would be a ten-floor clinical suite, and according to the feasibility study, would "provide space for the most direct patient care and support functions on the Omaha campus." Additionally, the study asserts this expansion would "provide the best environment of care without compromising space, function, efficiency, and patient safety" and "would provide the greatest improvements to patient and staff satisfaction."
I am very optimistic about the future of the Omaha VA Medical Center, and the future of medical care for Nebraska's veterans. The commitment shown at the hearing is important and I will work hard to ensure the facility is sufficiently upgraded. This is something I believe all Nebraskans can support, because our military heroes from across the state will benefit greatly from it. I look forward to working with the VA, my colleagues in the Nebraska delegation, and others to follow through on this commitment to those who put their lives on the line for our country.