By Senator Deb Fischer
It’s a longstanding promise. A few, selfless souls willingly place themselves in harm’s way to protect our families and our homeland. When their service ends, those they protected, in turn, protect and provide for them.
Nebraskans know well our nation’s responsibility to care for those who “have borne the battle.” Access to quality health care for veterans is a critical part of that responsibility. But across America, construction of new veteran health care facilities has been stalled by long delays and climbing costs.
These delays raise doubts about our ability to uphold our end of that solemn bargain.
Veterans deserve more from us. Now, with new legislation that I championed in the Senate, we have an opportunity to deliver. It’s called the CHIP IN for Vets Act. Congress has passed it, and President Obama has signed it.
This bill is law.
I collaborated with the Omaha VA, members of the Omaha community, and my House colleague, Brad Ashford, on this important bill. For months, I worked in Washington with VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the committee chairmen, Congressional leadership, and their dedicated staff to advance it. I am so grateful for all of their help.
The idea behind the CHIP IN for Vets Act is simple: let local communities help with the planning and construction of veteran health care projects. Let them bring to the table their expertise and their sincere desire to give back to those who have given so much for them.
The VA has already identified these communities, in Nebraska and across America. These are local leaders, with expertise in aligning both design and medical teams in constructing medical facilities. They are ready, willing, and able to partner with veterans and the VA to bring these projects in on-time and on-budget.
This is localism at its finest; this is America at her best.
Through partnerships created in the CHIP IN for Vets Act, local leaders would have the opportunity to manage construction projects from start to finish. Through five initial projects, we can test a new model of veteran health care delivery. Omaha and the Omaha VA would be eligible to participate.
Eligible projects are limited to those for which funding has already been appropriated or those on the VA’s long-term planning list. The VA has already directed millions of dollars to construction projects that remain unfinished or have not yet begun. This bill would allow communities to contribute the remaining finances to complete these projects. The VA’s financial obligation would be limited to the previous appropriation and not one dollar more.
CHIP IN for Vets is an innovative solution to meet the medical needs of our veterans. Because of it, veterans and active service members who will one day be veterans, can believe us when we tell them ‘Our word is good. We will take care of you, too.’ Further, we can believe ourselves and know we upheld our end of the bargain.
Thank you for your interest and involvement in our democratic process. I appreciate your input and suggestions on the important issues facing our nation, and I look forward to working with you to build a stronger, freer, and more hopeful America in the coming year.
Our family wishes you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.