Nebraska has a lot at stake as legislation to address problems at the Veterans Administration moves through Congress.
Complaints from veterans include long delays and poor service at VA hospitals across the country.
The $80 billion-plus military construction and veterans affairs appropriations bill seeks to address those concerns with the House appropriating $118 million to address the patient backlog problem at VA facilities and the Senate agreeing to slightly more, at $250 million.
Western Nebraska veterans have been watching anxiously as rumors circulate that the VA will close the Black Hills Health Care System in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The Hot Springs facility serves veterans in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska. If it closes, veterans would have to travel another hour to Rapid City.
The bill would prohibit the VA from shutting down Hot Springs without considering the impact that would have on veterans living in surrounding states.
Sen. Deb Fischer says the bill shows progress on difficult issues, but isn’t a cure all.
“So, although this bill offers progress, we are not finished with our efforts to address the many problems that our veterans are facing at the Veterans Administration,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call.
In Omaha, a proposed public-private partnership could prove to be a model to replace aging VA facilities. The partnership would be used to plan, design, and build a new facility to replace the old VA hospital in Omaha.
The grounds for the former VA hospital in Lincoln have been undergoing redevelopment until a last-minute snag halted progress. It appears developers have been given the extra time they say they need to meet new federal regulations and move forward with the redevelopment.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]