October 1, 2015

Cassidy Remarks on Funding for Military and Veterans

I wish to speak on the Military Construction Veteran’s Affairs Appropriations bill that is now being considered, and I start by saying this: 3601 Gerstner Memorial Parkway, Lake Charles, Louisiana.

This is the location for the new Lake Charles VA Clinic. A clinic that has taken 13 years to get approved. A clinic that has seen delay after delay, costing veterans access to quality health care. A clinic still waiting to be built.

This is a picture of the current facility in Lake Charles where veterans have to go for their health care while they wait for over 13 years to have the new facility built.

This RV and the small building is why Congress must advance this MILCON-VA appropriations bill and why the president should sign it into law. Now this mobile clinic in Lake Charles, you almost laugh. This is the clinic for our veterans? It is one of many such clinics in the country and is unacceptable. Something you would see on a documentary about developing nations, not the United States of America.

This RV, where our veterans are treated for serious medical conditions, is connected to a waiting room that is triple the size of the square footage of the mobile home. And that’s because the demand for care so greatly exceeds this subpar facility’s ability to deliver that health care to our veterans.

And in the waiting room, there’s a television set. But it’s not plugged in and it doesn’t have a remote. That’s because VA Rules say that you must have a TV in the waiting room, but the rules don’t stipulate that it must function. It sounds like a joke. We have to have a television but we don’t say it has to be plugged in. This is the current state of the VA and this is what Congress is allowing when we fail to pass this needed legislation.

 I’d like to say that this is an isolated problem but there are veterans all over the country receiving health care under similar circumstances.

For more than ten years our young men and women have returned from war in the Middle East. These young veterans joining men and women who have served this nation in uniform defending our freedom every corner of the globe. They deserve better than a mobile home. They deserve action. They deserve it now. If we don’t pass this bill, there will be consequences for people, America’s heroes, who need help now.  

This is the VA portion, but it’s also the military VA construction budget. If we fail to act, it will not just be our veterans who are hurt. It will also affect our active-duty military and our national security. Now inherent that we know that there is a portion of the budget which goes for actual military this protects our country construction. What folks sometimes forget is that there is a human face to our military.

General Robin Rand recently took command of global strike, a position that is charged with maintaining our nuclear triad and first strike capabilities. But, there are those in the air force that serve under General Rand. He needs the resources to maintain our nuclear abilities, but without this legislation, we cannot maintain his combat readiness, which includes basic needs like housing for our soldiers and for educating their children. I urge my fellow senators to consider what is included in this legislation: family housing, schools, medical facilities for active-duty personnel and their families, and funding for the care of 6.9 million veterans.

As a doctor, I am glad that we also specifically provide for ground-breaking hepatitis-c treatments and for modernizing the VA electronic medical records system.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Military Construction and Veteran’s Affairs Appropriations bill by a bipartisan vote of 21-9 with all Republicans and five Democrats voting in favor.

This is common sense. Congress has the duty to pass this legislation now. The president has an obligation to sign. We must honor our commitment to our military and to our veterans. Thank you, Mr. President.