Veterans subcommittee votes $2.2 million for health facilities

Nearly $1.7 billion is for increases in the projected cost of seven facilities previously authorized.

The House Veterans Affairs Health Subcommittee last Wednesday unanimously approved a bill authorizing nearly $2.2 billion for new construction, improvements and leases of Veterans Administration health facilities.

Most of that amount, nearly $1.7 billion, was for increases in the projected cost of seven facilities authorized in previous years. Although subcommittee ranking member Jeff Miller, R-Fla., had protested VA's inability to accurately calculate the cost of its construction projects in an earlier hearing on the measure, he joined in the voice vote to favorably report the bill to the full committee.

Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Michaud, D-Maine, said the committee would take up the bill this week.

The cost adjustment were for improvements at VA health facilities in Gainesville, Lee County, and Orlando, Fla.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Pittsburgh, and two unmanned projects.

The bill authorized $54 million for seismic corrections at the Palo Alto, Calif., facility, $66 million for construction of a polytrauma healthcare and rehabilitation center in San Antonio, Texas, and $225.9 million for seismic corrections to the VA medical center in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

It also authorized $60.1 million to lease health care facilities in Brandon and Tampa, Fla.; Mesa and Sun City, Ariz.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Eugene, Ore.; Green Bay, Wis.; Greenville, S.C.; Mansfield, Ohio; Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; Palo Alto, and Savannah, Ga. And it authorized $54.5 million to build a new medical facility in Okaloosa County, Fla.

The subcommittee also gave unanimous approval last Wednesday to a bill that would create the full-time position of director of physician assistant services at VA headquarters. Physician assistants are highly trained nurses who are certified to conduct some medical procedures that nurses are not permitted to perform. The legislation said the new director would report directly to the VA undersecretary for health.