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Opening Statement of Hon. Corrine Brown, Democratic Member, Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Thank you, Chairman Miller and Ranking Member Filner, for calling this hearing today.

Central Florida has waited for over 25 years for the VA to build a VA Medical Center.

I am ecstatic the VA Medical Center will be co-located with the new University of Central Florida medical school and near an urban medical complex.  The new center, along with the Burnham Institute, will create a biotech cluster at Lake Nona, allowing the area to become one in which doctors and researchers can work together on the needs of our area veterans.  It is known that teaching hospitals provide the best health care available, which is invaluable for the VA and Central Florida’s veterans.

25 years is too long for those men and women who have defended this country and the freedoms it holds dear. Too long for the oldest veteran population to wait for proper care.

When Jesse Brown was the Secretary of the VA under President Clinton, he visited Orlando and I convinced him that he needed to keep the hospital at the base for the VA.  I hope we can keep that clinic to augment the services here at the Medical Center.

However, that clinic was never adequate to serve the veteran population of the Central Florida region.

In 2009, Chairman Filner held a field hearing in Orlando where Mr. Robert Neary, who is with us here today and the Orlando VAMedical Center Director, Timothy W. Liezert, testified.  It was a wonderful hearing and everyone was very pleased that this Medical Center was finally moving forward.  Everyone was confident that this facility will be the feather in the cap of the VA as an example of the positive moves the VA has been making to put our veterans first.

Then the reports began of problems at the worksite, with the workers and the roof.

I have spoken to Secretary Shinseki and have been assured that the problems have been fixed. 

And yet here we are.  Do not be mistaken, this is a political hearing.  I have never been involved in a hearing where we are discussing one project.  It is time for the VA to get to work and build this Medical Center.

I do not want to have to wait another one, three or any number of years for this Medical Center to open.  I want it open now.

I look forward to hearing your testimony.