Gus Bilirakis, Joe Cunningham Pair Up on VA Community Infrastructure Act

From his perch on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., is calling on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fund state and local government infrastructure projects that help VA medical facilities.

Bilirakis paired up with U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-SC, to unveil the  “VA Community Infrastructure Act” on Thursday.

“Currently, the VA is not authorized to fund infrastructure projects off of VA property; this bipartisan legislation would enable the VA to work with surrounding communities on critical infrastructure projects, such as drainage tunnels, road improvements, and flood walls,” Bilirakis’ office noted. “Sometimes nearby flooding conditions compromise access to VA facilities around the country during times when our veterans might need it the most.   This legislation offers the VA the discretion to fund such infrastructure projects, whereby addressing critical community needs and ensuring veterans can safely access the care they deserve.”

Bilirakis, who was the vice chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee when the GOP controlled the House, weighed in on why he was championing the proposal which Cunningham introduced last week.

“We have to address critical infrastructure needs throughout our country,” Bilirakis said. “As part of that initiative, our commonsense bill tackles those issues in areas that are contiguous to VA facilities located in flood prone areas, such as the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, which many of my veteran constituents rely on for care. This is one important way we can ensure veterans are able to access the care they need at VA medical centers, regardless of weather conditions.”

Cunningham also said VA medical centers in his district were increasingly facing infrastructure problems.

“The Lowcountry needs serious investment in flood mitigation, especially in Charleston’s medical district. Recurrent flooding is compromising access to Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center when our veterans might need it the most, and VA medical facilities across the country face similar challenges,” said Cunningham. “This common-sense legislation would ensure the VA is able to fund infrastructure projects that address critical community needs and ensure veterans can safely access the care they are owed.”

U.S. Rep. David Rouzer, R-NC, threw his support behind the bill, joining on as a cosponsor on Friday.

The bill was sent to the House Veterans Affairs Committee last week. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

 

Kevin Derby can be reached at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com 

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