Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) today voted in support of legislation funding critical assistance and health services for our nation's veterans and military construction projects. The Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act for FY 2013 (H.R. 5854) will provide $135.4 billion, an eleven percent increase over current levels, for medical services, disability payments, pensions, survivors' benefits, and education benefits to America's veterans. H.R. 5854 passed the U.S. House by a vote of 407 yeas to 12 nays.
The measure provides two years of funding for medical services for our veterans, which brings continuity and security for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in instances when its budget isn't approved on time.
The bill also provides $16.4 million for the lease of an outpatient medical care center for veterans in West Oahu. This will help to meet the needs of our veterans in Hawaii, especially those residing in rural Oahu and along the Leeward Coast. The facility will also include a clinic for military branch entities (Army, Navy, and Coast Guard). The VA and Department of Defense will share support services. Currently, the Spark M. Matsunaga VA Medical Center at Tripler Army Medical Center is the only VA medical center on Oahu.
"I continue to support increased funding for programs that support our veterans. Veterans residing outside of urban Honolulu experience the frustration of travel and overcrowding stemming in part from the pressures on Oahu's primary VA medical center in Moanalua. This bill helps us get a much-needed outpatient VA medical care center in West Oahu that will improve health care access and capacity for the services veterans have earned through their selfless service to our country," said Congresswoman Hirono.
"At a time when our construction workers need jobs, the bill's $366 million for military construction projects at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Army Airfield, and Marine Corps Base Hawaii is critical.
"And, in a true spirit of bipartisanship, this bill was amended to roll back language forbidding military construction contracts from including "project labor agreements' that help contractors and workers have a clear understanding of the rules of the road on projects. These agreements help lead to higher-quality work by spelling out things like work requirements and pay, which can help save money in the long term.
"There are, however, several areas of concern in this bill, such as the fact that spending exceeds the provisions of the Budget Control Act. It's also disappointing that the Majority again puts the burden of deficit reduction on the backs of our hard-working federal workers -- the people who help our veterans and keep us safe -- by extending their pay freeze. Fairness dictates we should be asking instead the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share to help reduce the deficit.
"As this bill moves to the Senate, it's my hope that they will address these areas of concern."
H.R. 5854 now goes before the U.S. Senate for consideration