The Veterans Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas met with the senior staff of Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Mr. Dave Hanke, adviser on military and veterans affairs, Major Paul Taylor,and Grace Smitten via satellite from his Harlingen, TX office today October 8, 2009. The veterans were informed that Sen. Cornyn sent a letter to President Barack Obama regarding a VA hospital for the veterans in south Texas. Veterans in South Texas have been asking for a VA hospital for several decades. The veterans were elated to hear this news and told the staff to relay the message that we were glad of him taking this step.
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, today sent a letter to President Obama requesting his continued leadership in the effort to bring a full-scale VA hospital to the Rio Grande Valley. Earlier this year, Sen. Cornyn re-introduced legislation to build a top-notch VA hospital in the Valley. Veterans there are currently forced to drive hours and travel up to hundreds of miles for access to inpatient health care, and Sen. Cornyn’s Far South Texas Veterans Medical Center Act of 2009 helps close the gap by authorizing construction of a full VA hospital in Far South Texas to give these veterans more proximate access to inpatient medical care. In 2008, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama cosponsored the previous version of Sen. Cornyn’s legislation, and today’s letter asks the President for his continued support of this important effort. The full text of Sen. Cornyn’s letter is below.
October 8, 2009
President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
NW Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
I write today to ask for your continued leadership on an issue of critical importance. There are currently an estimated 100,000 veterans in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas without adequate access to a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital. The Federal Government still fails to fully recognize the efforts and sacrifices of these brave Americans in defense of our country, despite repeated requests to the VA for help and recent legislative efforts on this issue.
Many of the veterans in the Rio Grande Valley are forced to drive five hours or more to receive treatment at VA facilities in San Antonio or elsewhere. These South Texas veterans deserve full access to top-notch health care at a world-class inpatient VA facility, one that matches the strong commitment they made years ago to keep our nation safe.
Although the VA’s recent efforts at bolstering access to quality medical services in South Texas have improved the situation, we have a long way to go to provide adequate, accessible inpatient care to the many veterans of the region. I applaud the steps the VA has taken to address the problem for our veterans in the short-term – including its expansion of the South Texas VA Health Center in Harlingen and its partnering with high-quality private inpatient hospitals in the region – but these measures should not be the last steps for the long-term. These heroes deserve, and their service demands, that we do more to properly care for them when inpatient care is required. To that end, I continue to work closely with local officials and veterans’ advocates to secure a new VA hospital facility in the region, which will serve to complement the ongoing expansion at the Harlingen facility.
I was very pleased that, as a member of the Senate in 2008, you co-sponsored the South Texas Veterans Access to Care Act, which I had introduced to bring desperately needed inpatient medical facilities to the Rio Grande Valley. On March 25, I reintroduced this legislation, after strengthening it and re-titling it as the Far South Texas Veterans Medical Center Act. Your continued support of this effort would greatly increase its chances of success. I need your help to ensure that our greatest national assets – those who have defended our nation in the Armed Forces – are provided with the finest medical care available. I ask that you direct the VA to support the construction of a new VA inpatient hospital in the Rio Grande Valley, one which would fully meet the inpatient needs of our South Texas veterans.
Our veterans in South Texas have waited far too long for the quality health care they have earned through their service. I look forward to your continued commitment to and support for these great Americans and their fight to get a new VA inpatient hospital in the Rio Grande Valley.
United States Senator