Honoring Our Veterans
Mica’s Veteran Record:
“Congressman Mica’s work in Congress to improve benefits, medical care and veteran’s preference has earned him recognition by nearly every national veteran’s and armed services organization including, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), Vietnam Veterans of America, the Blinded Veterans Foundation, the National Military Family Association and many others.”
Working for Our Veterans:
My current efforts in Congress to assist our veterans are detailed in many of the projects and activities below:
Congress Acts on Veteran’s Care
In response to the recent revelations regarding the VA’s care for our veterans, the House unanimously passed the Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014, of which, I am an original cosponsor.
Lake Baldwin Clinic:
I am pleased to announce that on July 29, 2014, I received a letter from the VA Secretary stating that they have decided to keep the Lake Baldwin VA clinic open and serving our veterans following the opening of the new VA hospital in Lake Nona.
I want to thank our local veterans, community leaders and other supporters in acheiving this important goal, without your tireless efforts, this would have not beeen possible. It is a testament to the fact that when we work together, there is nothing we cannot acheive.
Lake Nona Orlando VA Hospital and Medical Center:
One of the most important projects for our Central Florida Veterans, the Lake Nona Orlando VA Medical Center, is underway. This new facility will have 134-inpatient beds, a 120-bed community living center and a 60-bed residential rehabilitation medical center.
While there have been some delays in the construction process, significant progress is taking place.
To ensure that the VA is doing everything possible to get the new state of the art medical complex open and serving our veterans, I participated in a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing entitled: Building VA’s Future: Confronting Persistent Challenges in VA’s Major Construction and Lease Programs. During the hearing I questioned VA officials on expediting the opening of the nursing home and domiciliary portions of the new hospital. At this hearing, the VA confirmed that the 134-bed nursing home would begin taking patients in December. I am pleased to announce that veterans are now entering this long-term care facility.
As you may know, the nursing home and domicillary unit of the new hospital are already open and serving our veterans. The advanced opening of domiciliary beds is very important in assisting the many homeless and often forgotten veterans who need longer-term care. This is promising news, particularly in providing stable care to veterans left homeless on the streets or in need of care beyond what our clinics can provide. My goal has been to take our most vulnerable veterans off the streets as soon as possible and provide specialized care as key health service components of the new facility are opened. Be assured that I will continue to hold the VA’s feet to the fire to make certain this happens.
I continued pressing the VA on its inability to maintain its completion schedule for the new VA hospital also under construction in Lake Nona. The most recent release from the VA states that the date of completion for the new facility is now December 2014. Originally, the new hospital was scheduled to be completed last year. At the hearing, I also raised the issue of delayed payments to contractors and sub-contractors which has compounded problems and caused further delays in completing the new facility. My work will continue until the doors of the new hospital officially open.
With over 2,100 employees serving an estimated 113,000 veterans annually, the new Orlando VA Medical Center will set a new benchmark in veteran health care.
According to a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting, over the last four years, VA claims that are pending over a year have grown by over 2,000 percent. Currently, the average wait time for a first time disability claim ranges between 316 and 327 days; many veterans across the country are waiting significantly longer. In Congress, I am supporting several actions to help alleviate the issue, including language in the 2014 Defense Appropriations bill that would implement a plan to end the backlog by 2015.
Last Congress, during my tenure as Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I authored the FAA Reauthorization bill which was signed into law. In the bill, I included a provision that- Gives veterans preference requirements for contracts involving labor on Airport Improvement Projects (AIP) and requires as well that preference be given to the use of small business concerns owned and controlled by disabled veterans.
A serious national issue is the problem of homeless vets. In one of our Central Florida counties, over 25% of the homeless population are veterans. I have been working to expand services for homeless veterans in our community. I am pleased that homeless veterans in our area will has new care facilities at Lake Nona, including additional long term care facilities and expanded services which are now open and being utilized. Significant VA underwriting for housing and meals have also been secured.
I am also continuing my work to ensure that the Bladwin Park facility’s 180 beds are also used to house those veteran’s in need of this care. It is essential that this valuable facility remain in service to our veterans following the completion of the new facility in Lake Nona.
Central Florida Veterans Memorial at Lake Nona:
I was honored to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Central Florida Veterans Memorial located adjacent to the new VA Medical Center in Orlando. This memorial is dedicated to all of the Central Florida veterans who answered our country’s call to duty and never returned home.