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Burr: VA taking care to veterans

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., made the following comments during a oversight hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He is the top Republican on the Committee.
You’ve often heard me talk about the need to transform the V.A.’s health care system to a 21st century delivery system and organization. In his budget, the president states that he wants the V.A. to be veteran centric, results driven, forward looking. And such transformation, and I quote, “is determined by new times, new technologies, new demographic realities, new commitments to today’s veterans,” end quote. This transformation includes technological advances, new pharmaceutical products and an emphasis on preventative care that greatly reduces the need for lengthy hospital stays. That’s a good thing and I’ve talked to everyone who wanted to spend more time in a hospital.
The transformation also includes providing veterans greater access to care closer to where they live, dislocating families less. Something we’ve seen with increasing regularity as V.A. opens new outpatient clinics across the country and some with ambulatory units attached.
The president, Secretary Shinseki (of Veterans Affairs) have also endorsed the HCC approach, the health care centers approach to health care delivery. HCCs had the ability to provide 90 to 95 percent of the care veterans need, including primary care, specialties care, and ambulatory surgery. One of the first HCCs was opened in Columbus, Ohio, last fall.
To supplement the outpatient care provided at the HCC, V.A. has collaborated with inpatient providers in the community. Although more time is needed to fully evaluate the concept, one thing is clear so far, it’s saved veterans living in Columbus from having to drive 144 miles to access their health care. I think that’s a good thing.
More HCCs are in the pipeline, including three that are in this year’s budget for the state of North Carolina. I welcome those HCCs.
These state of the art facilities will eliminate the need for many veterans to drive to faraway hospitals for their care and will stretch V.A.’s construction dollars far more than it otherwise would. We all know that construction dollars are limited. There are 66 major medical facilities ó construction projects vetted and approved by V.A. for the F.Y. 10 budget. However, appropriations were requested for the design of only seven of these facilities, 59 projects will have to wait until another year.
What this suggests is that the V.A. and Congress must continue to think of the innovative ways to meet the vast needs that exist in the system. …
One last comment … it concerns the over $1.4 billion allocated to V.A. on the part of the stimulus package…. According to the administration’s Web site, the latest numbers indicate that just over three-hundredth of 1 percent of these dollars has actually been spent to date ó three hundredth of 1 percent.
We’re now in the fourth month since the stimulus package was signed into law. I’m anxious to hear why there’s been a delay in spending money that was meant to stimulate the economy and what the plan is going forward.

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