Senate’s federal budget has $4 billion for veterans’ hospitals
The federal budget deal that U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has good news for veterans, according to Schumer, who said the spending bill includes $4 billion to rebuild veterans’ hospitals and clinics.
The $4 billion will be spent during the next two years on unfinished construction projects at Veterans Administration hospitals across the country as well as maintenance projects that have been deferred, Schumer said.
There are more than 70,000 code deficiencies at VA hospitals and clinics across the country that need to be brought up to date, he said.
In recent years, Congress has authorized increased funding for the VA health care system, but maintenance of VA hospitals and clinics and updates to existing buildings has not kept pace, Schumer said.
The Veterans Administration New York Harbor Health Care System operates a hospital at 800 Poly Place in Bay Ridge, where thousands of veterans from Brooklyn and Staten Island seek care. The VA also operates hospitals in Manhattan and Queens.
Schumer said he was pleased with the budget agreement. Congress passed the budget during the early morning hours of Feb. 9. President Donald Trump signed the legislation a few hours later.
The government was shut down for a few hours when a federal funding ran out at midnight on Feb. 9. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) spoke on the floor of the Senate raising his objections to the budget. Paul charged that the budget contained too much spending. The Senate vote took place after Paul finished speaking. The House of Representatives voted a short time later before sending the legislation to the president.
“The budget deal doesn’t have everything Democrats want. It doesn’t have everything the Republicans want. But it has what the American people need. It shows that bipartisanship still lives in Washington and that both parties can work together to address the issues affecting our nation,” Schumer said in a statement.
Last year, the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System at Poly Place was spared from a budget cut that would have seen the closure an inpatient surgical unit.
The VA had been seeking to move the surgical unit from Bay Ridge to a VA facility located on the East Side of Manhattan.
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn-Staten Island), Borough President Eric Adams and state Sens. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn) and Diane Savino (D-Coney Island-Bensonhurst-Staten Island) wrote a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin requesting that the unit be allowed to remain in Brooklyn.
The lawmakers charged that a closure would have led to the loss of 25 inpatient beds and would have severely hurt patients, particularly elderly veterans.
Doctors in the surgical unit perform open heart procedures, joint reconstructions, appendectomies and other operations.
Raymond Aalbue, executive director of the United Military Veterans of Kings County, expressed relief when the word came that the unit had been spared.
“This is great news. Veterans are one of America’s greatest assets and their welfare must be a priority,” Aalbue said in a statement.
In another health-related development, Schumer announced that the new federal budget also includes $6 billion for opioid addiction treatment and treatment of people with mental health issues.
The funds will go toward prevention, treatment and recovery programs.
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