HARLINGEN, September 30 – Actor Samuel Jackson’s new commercial should have hit the South Texas veteran right on target and if veterans do not wake the f…k up, we will never get a Veterans Affairs hospital.
Rio Grande Valley veterans have been incredibly vocal on the hospital issue these past five to seven years. But, during the past two years they have mellowed down considerably and some in the Valley believe veterans have finally raised the white flag.
Veterans have come to close to their goal, especially with the help of Congressman Henry Cuellar. And I will repeat what I have written for the past month, that he has opened the door by identifying a possible funding source, the VA’s Strategic Capital Investment Plan (SCIP). This plan includes language addressing specifically the Harlingen Surgical Center’s expansion to a Full Service Medical Center (FSMC). It would make one think that the rest of our elected officials would jump for joy and join in the fight, especially the Harlingen City Commission.
Besides the veterans, the city of Harlingen stands to gain most if a FSMC becomes a reality. Sure, the SCIP is a federal plan, but the House of Representatives has made it a point to address our local issue. What is Harlingen waiting for? If Harlingen does not move on it, how do the city commissioners expect others to help?
Congressmen U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa and Blake Farenthold should step on the gas pedal and work full blast on this issue now that the opportunity presents itself. The congressional candidates for the new District 34, which is anchored in Cameron County, should make this a strong issue in their campaigns. The two senatorial candidates vying to fill Kay Bailey Hutchison’s empty chair in the U.S. Senate should also make this a campaign issue. Where are these two, Paul Sadler, a Democrat, and Ted Cruz, a Republican? Better yet, who are they?
Veterans, we must W T F U and press our elected officials to move and move now. Or we will go backwards and almost to certain defeat in our goal of getting a FSMC. The VA views SCIP as the blueprint for future health care services and construction projects. If we are not included, we will be left out. Cuellar has done a lot of work and he should be commended for it, but we need a little more from him, one final push
Back on July 22, 2008, VA administrator Diana Struski stated at a Pre-Solicitation Conference in McAllen that the VA had settled on providing 12 to 15 inpatient beds in the Valley for area veterans following a study into the health care needs of the region’s veterans by Booz Allen Hamilton. The study was challenged by area veterans for underestimating the number of veterans in the region. Yet, the study was accepted by VA. Since then and with VA’s own statistics, veterans have challenged the findings again and proven that a FSMC is warranted.
Following the McAllen conference the VA entered into contracts with two local private hospitals. These hospitals were to provide services previously carried out by the VA hospital in San Antonio. Many veterans are very disgusted and disappointed with how things have panned out. The contract referral system has led to the creation of a “voucher type” program that has a lot of problems. Veterans have a hard time getting vouchers approved in time for their appointments to a private care provider. Those scheduled appointments are cancelled and the veteran must wait for another opening at the referral provider’s office. Sometimes the delay can mean months. With the increase in veteran patient load, now more than ever we need a FSMC (VA hospital).
So veterans, don’t you think it’s time to W… T... F… U?
Arturo 'Treto' Garza is a resident of Harlingen, Texas. He served as a Marine in the Vietnam War and is a former co-chair of the Veteran’s Alliance of the Rio Grande Valley. He writes in an individual capacity and not on behalf of the Veteran’s Alliance. His Veteran's Voice column appears exclusively in the Guardian.