With veterans in the spotlight on Tuesday at the American Legion convention in Charlotte, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan announced that leases have been approved for temporary Veterans Affairs medical centers in Fayetteville and Jacksonville.
The Democratic senator from Greensboro spoke at the convention, as did North Carolina’s Republican senator, Richard Burr.
Hagan wrote to President Barack Obama in July urging an end to bureaucratic delays over the leases for the temporary medical centers, which are needed to serve growing numbers of veterans.
Last week, Hagan criticized the administration for not doing enough for veterans.
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Speaking to reporters on Air Force One on the way to Charlotte, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Hagan was a “dedicated advocate for America’s veterans.”
The issue of veterans’ health care has become an issue in the U.S. Senate campaign between Hagan and her Republican opponent, Thom Tillis. His campaign has accused her of not keeping promises to ensure that veterans get top medical care.
“In the Senate, Kay Hagan failed to deliver on the promises that she made to our veterans as a candidate six years ago. On Hagan’s watch, veterans in North Carolina continue to face some of the longest wait times in the country,” the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s press secretary, Brook Hougesen, said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Hagan said in a news release that she was relieved the delays over the leases had ended and that additional medical space would be available.
“Bureaucratic delays should never prevent our veterans from receiving the care they have earned through their service,” she said. “But these leases are just one symptom of a much larger problem and demonstrate the need for a complete change from the culture of delay and excuses at the VA.”
A report examining delays in care for veterans in the VA system found that the Fayetteville center had among the worst wait times. The leased space in Fayetteville will provide a place for additional care while new buildings are under construction.
Approval of the leases had been delayed because of questions between the General Services Administration and the VA over whether the facilities needed to be considered long-term leases. The GSA finally approved them as short-term leases that didn’t require congressional approval. The Jacksonville space and one leased space for primary and mental health care in Fayetteville are ready for staff to move in. Another leased space in Fayetteville for mental health care will require some modular buildings to be assembled, Hagan’s office said.
The senator’s news release said that she has “made veterans and military affairs a hallmark of her office, including assisting over 5,000 veterans with constituent casework to ensure servicemen and women are receiving the benefits they have earned through their service.”