Hon. Ruben Hinojosa
I want to thank Chairman Michaud and Ranking Member Miller for holding this important hearing today on legislation that will help improve the quality of health care for our veterans. I am here to express my strong support for HR 538, offered by my colleague from South Texas, Congressman Solomon Ortiz, of which I am a cosponsor.
South Texas has a proud history of patriotism and thousands of South Texans have fought in all of this country’s major wars. They have returned to South Texas with a variety of injuries and illnesses as a result of their military service. Unfortunately, the closest veterans’ hospital is more than 300 miles away in San Antonio. Many South Texas veterans do not have the financial means to travel to San Antonio and stay overnight in hotels waiting for appointments and procedures. The VA provides some transportation in cramped vans, but the journey is long and many veterans are unable to make the trip.
In addition to the veterans who make their permanent residence in South Texas, my region also sees hundreds of so-called “Winter Texans” who travel to South Texas to avoid the cold winters. These veterans use the limited clinic services currently available and in the past the local Veterans Service Region has not even been reimbursed for their care. Although the VA has worked to resolve this problem, it still has not resolved the problem of how to provide adequate health services to this additional population.
Since coming to Congress, I have been working to get a full-service veterans hospital in South Texas. I have brought several Secretaries of Veterans’ Affairs to the region and they all agree that the service is inadequate. Still nothing has been done.
The veterans in my community are tired of waiting and have taken action. Last year, they organized a march to San Antonio to show their commitment to getting their own hospital. Hundreds of veterans made the 300 mile trek to San Antonio in the heat to show the Veterans Administration that they were serious.
I hope the committee will approve a new veterans’ hospital in South Texas so that these veterans will finally receive the health care they deserve.
Attached to my testimony is a petition signed by over 10,000 veterans in South Texas in support of a veterans hospital. I ask that it be made a part of the hearing record.
Thank you for your consideration and for holding this important hearing.
[THE PETITION IS BEING RETAINED IN THE PERMANENT COMMITTEE HEARING FILES AND IS NOT BEING PRINTED.]