Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that during a conference call on
May 17, 2006 with Mr. Larry Janes, Capital Asset Manager for the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 21), which is responsible for California, Nevada, Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa, he was informed that the final hurdles have been cleared for American Samoa’s VA center to open at the end of 2006 or first quarter of 2007.
“As is the policy set forth for community-based outpatient clinics (CBOC), a final business plan must be approved by the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Upon his approval, he submits the business plan to the House Subcommittee on VA Appropriations for final review,” Faleomavaega said. “In accordance with this procedure, the business plan for American Samoa’s clinic has been approved by US Secretary of Veterans Affairs R. James Nicholson, and the Subcommittee on VA appropriations has informed my office that we can now move forward with construction and renovation.”
“From the outset, I wish to thank the Pacific Island Health Care System, formerly known as the VA Regional Center in Honolulu, for writing a business plan that met with the Secretary Nicholson’s approval. I also thank Dr. Robert Wiebe, Director of VISN 21, who has worked side by side with us since the inception of this project.”
“This project has been six years in the making and, thankfully, we have been able to overcome each and every obstacle we faced, including not having enough veterans registered. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for our veterans to register so that they can take advantage of the services that will be offered by the medical clinic. So, once more, I am asking all veterans who have not registered to contact my office so that we can assist you with the registration process. I also encourage all our veterans living in Samoa to come to Tutuila to register with the VA.”
“As I have said in previous releases, we will have one full-time physician, one or two nurses, and a mental health provider. Our clinic will also be equipped with telemedicine services and we are in discussions to make sure our military men and women serving in the US Army Reserves can use our VA clinic for exams and check-ups. We will also be working on an agreement with LBJ Hospital so that our Veterans can use the facility for lab tests, etc.”
“The VISN 21 will be signing a contract with a California construction company committed to hiring local workers for the renovation work which must now be undertaken. It is estimated that construction will begin in the first part of June and will last approximately two months after which time the facility will be fitted with new appliances, medical equipments, and finishes. Approximately half a million dollars will go into the construction and renovation of our old Army Reserve Center which is being converted into our new VA Medical Clinic.”
“As I announced last year, initially the 9th Regional Support Command was going to give us the butler building but later agreed to give us the old Army Reserve Center. By acquiring this building, we are sending a strong message that our VA clinic is here to stay and we have room to grow in the future.”
“On May 7, 2004, in response to the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) Commission’s report which included American Samoa in its recommendations, former US Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Anthony Principi announced that out of only 156 new clinics to be built in the US, one would be established in American Samoa. Recognizing that the federal government would not have enough resources to open all 156 clinics at once, I immediately met with Dr. Wiebe on June 24, 2004 to make sure American Samoa was at the top of the list.
“Prior to Secretary Principi’s announcement, I also testified before the CARES Commission on October 1, 2003 via live satellite from the U.S. House of Representatives to urge the establishment of a VA clinic in American Samoa and to request that our clinic be given the highest priority rating possible. The CARES Commission was created by the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide an independent assessment of what the VA’s needs would be during the next 20 years. One of the main priorities of the Commission was to make sure that underserved veterans receive the care they deserve.”
“In my statement, I informed the Commission that I had worked closely with General John Ma, Commanding General of the 9th Regional Support Command, to secure a building at no cost to the VA. General Ma’s generosity in giving us the building was one of the contributing factors which made it possible for a clinic to be established in American Samoa and, for this reason, I thank him for his support.
“I want to thank Secretary R. James Nicholson of the Veterans Administration for all that he has done to help our Veterans in American Samoa. I also thank Dr. Robert Wiebe and his staff as well as the staff and Directors, past and present, of the Pacific Islands Health Care System, who have been with us every step of the way.”
“I also thank Senator Daniel Inouye, Senator Daniel Akaka, Congressman Chris Smith, former Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Congressman Lane Evans, Ranking Member of the Committee, Chairman James Walsh and Ranking Member Chet Edwards of the VA Subcommittee on Appropriations, and the American Samoa Legislature. Above all, I thank American Samoa’s veterans and our active duty service members. I applaud them for their military service and I continue to wish them and their families the very best,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.