Cornyn and Hutchison file Senate bill to open veterans' hospital in South Texas

Daisy Martinez (Valley Morning Star) | Posted: Friday, July 20, 2007 12:00 am

HARLINGEN — U.S. Sen. John Cornyn announced Friday that he and fellow Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison have introduced a bill that could provide for a veterans’ hospital in “far South Texas.”

Cornyn made the announcement during a news conference at Harlingen City Hall, which was crowded with veterans from across the Rio Grande Valley who were anxious to hear what he had to say.

The bill, South Texas Veterans Access to Care Act of 2007, is a Senate companion to a House bill Democratic U.S. Reps. Solomon Ortiz, Ruben Hinojosa, Lloyd Doggett and Henry Cuellar filed in January.

The bill “affirms” that more than 100,000 veterans live in far South Texas and are in need of health care.

It calls for the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to make a decision on how to meet veterans’ needs within six months of its enactment.

One of the three solutions that the bill offers is the construction of a “full-service, 50-bed hospital with a 125-bed nursing home in Far South Texas.”

Another possible solution is for a public-private venture in an existing facility in far South Texas.

A third possibility is described as providing care “through a sharing agreement with a military treatment facility in Far South Texas.”

If a full-service hospital was deciden on, the veterans secretary would have the option to choose the best location in South Texas, the bill states. The bill also authorizes $175 million in federal funds for the full-service hospital.

Cornyn said he is supporting this bill because the veterans of South Texas have a “persuasive case.”

“They shouldn’t have to drive to San Antonio, six hours for the nearest VA hospital,” Cornyn said.

“I think we can do better than that, especially at a time when we rely on our veterans to protect our freedom. How can we tell them anything but, ‘Yes, we’ll do everything in our power to do what we can.’”

Cornyn said he understands that “this can’t happen fast enough” but it’s “the next big step.”

Homer Gallegos, of VFW Post 8788, said the announcement was a “Godsent gift.”

“This has been long overdue,” Gallegos said. “This is the closest we have been in a long time. It’s no longer a dream, but a huge step to making it a reality.”

Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos said that although the groundbreaking for a VA hospital could take anywhere from five to seven years, the announcement is positive.

“This is the farthest we’ve been,” Cascos said shortly after the announcement. “It’s been a long process. It would not have happened if it had not been for different groups coming together.”

Cascos said constructing a VA hospital is not a partisan issue and that’s how people have been able to come this far.





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