An old Congress will wrap up its work before a new Congress begins next year with concerns about the Veterans Administration lingering.
Nebraska has much at stake as Congress continues to wrestle with VA projects.
Sen. Deb Fischer will push to complete the public-private partnership to build a new VA hospital in Omaha.
“I have the bill in the Senate. It’s in committee. A lot of politics were involved before the election, so it didn’t advance yet from committee,” Fischer tells Nebraska Radio Network. “But, that’s one thing I’m really going to be pushing to get that done before the end of the year.”
The VA is looking to avoid the problems it encountered in building a new hospital for veterans in Denver, when the project went well over budget; so much so that it imperiled funding other projects, such as in Omaha.
Fischer and others in the Nebraska Congressional delegation hope the 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.
It appears attempts to turn the grounds for the former VA hospital in Lincoln into a private development are back on track after a last-minute snag halted progress.
Concerns remain in western Nebraska.
Congressman Adrian Smith says the Department of Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System has released its final environmental impact statement on the proposed reconfiguration of the system. The statement includes a proposed community-based outpatient clinic at Hot Springs, South Dakota as part of the VA’s preferred alternatives.
Smith is still concerned the Hot Springs facility used by thousands of western Nebraska veterans, could close. That would force them to drive another hour to Rapid City, South Dakota.
Smith is ready for a new approach by a new administration.
“I think that the VA has become so bureaucracy-laden that the bureaucracy stands in the way of caring for our veterans,” according to Smith.
In late 2015, members of the Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming congressional delegations sent letters to VA Secretary Robert McDonald to requesting more time for veterans to express their opinion on the possible closing.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]