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Oct. 14, 2009
A bill that would allow a new VA outpatient clinic in Johnson County has cleared the U.S. House and also this week the U.S. Senate gave final approval to a measure that would put politically sensitive veterans’ health care programs on a two-year budget cycle.
“Veterans in the Johnson County area deserve timely access to medical care and I have been working with VA, the Kansas City VA Medical Center and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to establish the (clinic) for Johnson County,” 1st District Kansas Congressman Jerry Moran wrote in his weekly update to constituents. “The new veterans’ clinic will provide comprehensive outpatient services, including mental health, as well as radiology, laboratory services and a pharmacy. It is estimated that occupancy of the to-be-determined facility will begin in June 2012.”
Moran, a Hays Republican who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sam Brownback, also said that construction on the VA’s Fort Dodge Community Based Outpatient Clinic, outside of Dodge City, has been completed with three rooms added to the existing facility. He said the addition would allow for expanding the mental health and telemedicine services provided there.
He also said that the VA clinic built in Salina in 2001 is in the design phase of a planned expansion.
The VA also has outpatient clinics in Emporia, Ft. Scott, Garnett, Hays, Holton, Hutchinson, Junction City, Kansas City, Lawrence, Liberal, Paola, Parsons, and Seneca.
It has medical centers in Topeka, Leavenworth and Kansas City and Veterans Centers in Wichita and Manhattan.
The Senate on Tuesday cleared the so-called VA Advance Appropriations Bill, which now goes to the president for signature. The measure, which had strong backing from veterans’ groups, would put appropriations for VA medical programs on a two-year cycle beginning in fiscal 2011.
Supporters said the VA health care system has been plagued by late and sometimes inadequate budgets and that the new law, which President Obama has pledged to sign, would provide more consistency in funding. Final appropriations for the VA have not been enacted before the start of the federal fiscal year in 19 of the past 22 years, supporters of the bill said.
"Imagine having to live paycheck-to-paycheck, but not knowing how much that paycheck would be or when it would arrive," said Clarence Hill, national commander of the American Legion. "That's the situation the VA's Veterans Health Administration has been in. This has resulted in hardships for the agency and even compromises in care to veterans.”
The bill would require the Government Accountability Office to study the adequacy of budget projections for the agency and require the VA to report annually to Congress by July 31 detailed cost estimates.