Press Release

McHenry Presses VA Subcommittee Chairman on Hickory Community-Based Outpatient Clinic

Chairman Edwards: “[McHenry] has a right to get a response from the [VA].”

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Washington, June 20, 2007 | Aaron Latham ((202) 225-2576) | comments

Congressman Patrick McHenry last week gained an influential ally in House Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Administration Subcommittee Chairman Chet Edwards (D-TX) in the fight for an updated status report on the Hickory VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic’s (CBOC) scheduled opening.

“When opened, this clinic will serve approximately 10,000 veterans on an outpatient basis annually,” said Congressman McHenry last Friday on the House floor. “However, since the VA’s Mid-Atlantic Health Care Network announced last June that the clinic in Hickory would open in January of this year, there has been nothing but delay after delay after delay.”

Chairman Edwards noted McHenry’s concerns and urged him to continue his efforts. “I believe the gentleman has a right to get a response from the Department and I would encourage the gentleman to continue working with the Senators from North Carolina in asking the Administration to provide a response to your inquiry,” said Chairman Edwards.

On May 23, McHenry joined Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr in requesting a status report from the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson on the VA CBOC scheduled for construction in Hickory.

The letter sent by McHenry, Dole, and Burr to Secretary Nicholson stated that, “We are asking you to provide us with an explanation for these delays and a firm opening date so that the veterans in the region who will benefit from this CBOC will be able to receive needed medical care without having to make the long trip to either Asheville or Salisbury.”

McHenry is scheduled to meet with Secretary Nicholson in the coming weeks regarding the Hickory CBOC.

Funding for the 10,000 square foot Hickory CBOC was approved in June 2006 and the original opening date was slated for January 2007. A few months later, in September, the proposed size for the CBOC was increased to close to 20,000 square feet and the new opening date for the CBOC was delayed until September of 2007. However, should construction be required, that opening date would delay the launch date by approximately three to four more months.

A transcript of the exchange between Congressman McHenry and Chairman Edwards last Friday on the House floor is appended below:

Congressman McHenry: Mr. Chairman, I would like to bring your attention to the shortcomings of the Department of Veterans Affairs in addressing the infrastructural needs of Community-Based Outpatient Clinics. These clinics provide convenient care to our veterans on an outpatient basis.

There are currently 64 pending clinics that have received approval from the VA either in Fiscal Year ’07 or Fiscal Year ’08 that have yet to be completed. One of those clinics is set to be established in my district in Hickory, North Carolina.

When opened, this clinic will serve approximately 10,000 veterans on an outpatient basis annually. However, since the VA’s Mid-Atlantic Health Care Network announced last June that the clinic in Hickory would open in January of this year, there has been nothing but delay after delay after delay.

Now, veterans in Western North Carolina are frustrated with delays that seem to be common throughout the system. This particular clinic has been in the works in some way or another for twelve years. The time is up for delays, and veterans in these 64 regions are entitled to answers.

Last month, my two North Carolina colleagues in the Senate and I formally requested an update about the status of the outpatient clinic in Hickory. Unfortunately, we still have yet to receive a response to our inquiry. Our veterans deserve better.

I would ask that, as this bill moves forward to the Senate and to Conference, the Chairman and the Ranking Member work to get answers from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Answers as to why we have these continued delays for pending outpatient clinics.

Veterans in Hickory, North Carolina and across the country have sacrificed too much for our country and deserve – at the very least – convenient health care. They deserve a proper explanation – and progress report – on their new outpatient clinic, which is approved but not yet built.

Chairman Edwards: Reclaiming my time. I thank the Gentleman from North Carolina for his comments. At the end of fiscal year 2006, the Department had 717 Community-Based Outpatient Clinics around the country. And the gentleman is correct that more than 60 additional CBOCs have been approved and are in the pipeline for opening in fiscal years 2007 and 2008.

I would say to the gentleman, while I don’t have the facts on which of these approved CBOCs has a higher priority over another or which should be opened before another, that is exactly some of the information the Committee report requires from the Department as part of our oversight initiatives this year. The Committee report directs the Secretary to report within 60 days on the location, cost, activation date, and type of facility planned.

I believe the gentleman has a right to get a response from the Department and I would encourage the gentleman to continue working with the Senators from North Carolina in asking the Administration to provide a response to your inquiry.

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