Cornyn files bill for Valley VA hospital

Jared Janes | The Monitor | Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013 5:01 am

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn filed legislation Wednesday seeking to convert the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Harlingen into a full-fledged hospital.

Cornyn’s bill would expand the existing South Texas VA Health Care Center into a full-service inpatient hospital. The VA opened the $40 million outpatient surgical center in Harlingen in 2011, but it lacks an emergency room and other inpatient services.

“After all the sacrifices they have made, the thousands of veterans who call South Texas home deserve to see a local VA inpatient care facility become reality,” Cornyn said in a news release. “The dedication these men and women have shown and continue to show to our country reaffirms my commitment to ensuring that veterans in South Texas have access to the highest quality of care.”

Cornyn’s bill requires the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs to include resources in the department’s annual Strategic Capital Investment Planning process to expand the existing facility to include 50 inpatient beds, an emergency room and capabilities to provide a full range of services to women veterans.

The Valley’s U.S. House delegation filed a similar bill in February that called for the VA to expand the Harlingen clinic into a full-service inpatient healthcare facility. U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela, Henry Cuellar and Rubén Hinojosa said at the time that it would reduce travel time for veterans to the VA hospital in San Antonio and reward them for sacrifices made to the country.

Cornyn and the Valley’s House Democrats have filed similar legislation before, but it has failed to advance in the legislative process.

The VA formed a new healthcare system in late 2010 for the Laredo, Valley and Corpus Christi areas and opened the 120,000-square-foot outpatient surgical center the next year. VA officials have said the center, along with service contracts it has with area hospitals that also care for veterans, have largely eliminated the need for South Texas veterans to travel to San Antonio for health care.

But Valley groups, led by its veterans’ alliance, have continued the push to bring a VA hospital here. Cornyn’s bill would designate the hospital as the “Treto Garza South Texas Department of Veterans Affairs Health Center” to honor Arturo “Treto” Garza, a Vietnam veteran and longtime advocate for the South Texas veterans who died last year.

Irene Garza, his wife, said it was a “great honor” to see the facility could recognize her late husband.

“Thank you, Senator Cornyn, for always being there for the veterans, and for keeping my husband’s and many veterans’ dream alive,” she said in the release.

Jared Janes covers Hidalgo County government, Edinburg and legislative issues for The Monitor. He can be reached at jjanes@themonitor.com and (956) 683-4424 or on Twitter, @moncounty.

 

 

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