Bilirakis’s Fight to Improve Veterans’ Facilities While Saving Tax Dollars Becomes a Reality
Washington, DC: Congressman Bilirakis is proud to announce the awarding of the contract to expand and renovate patient care areas of James A. Haley Veteran Hospital (JAHVH). This action marks the culmination of the Congressman’s persistent seven-year battle to secure state-of-the-art, private rooms for Veterans in Pasco and Hillsborough county who receive their care at this hospital. In total, the 245,000 square feet of new construction and 5,000 square feet of renovated space will add 96 medical surgical single-patient rooms and 40 intensive care unit beds. Given that JAHVH was first constructed in 1971, Veterans have often communicated their desire to receive treatment in a facility that was better equipped to manage the advancements in the delivery of medicine over the past 50 years. The hospital had long-term facility renovation plans to address some of these concerns, including a $156 million rehabilitation project to improve accessibility. However, these projects would require partial facility closures and costly maintenance expenditures during construction. An independent study found that construction of a new facility, known as a bed tower, rather than the planned major facility renovation, would accommodate the needs of the Veterans while saving the VA $500 million over a 30 year time period. Bilirakis, who has a proven track record as a champion for Veterans and as a strong fiscal conservative, first began advocating for the bed tower project in 2011, when a separate JAHVH construction project (improvements to Polytrauma Center and parking garage) was completed well under the amount that had been appropriated by Congress in 2008. In a budget neutral process, he asked the VA to utilize the savings from the 2008 project to fund construction of the bed tower, which would give Veterans the facilities they deserve while offering taxpayers significant long-term savings. Click here to read the original letter Congressman Bilirakis wrote urging this action. The continued advocacy spearheaded by Bilirakis led to the project’s authorization to be included in the Department of Veterans Affairs Expiring Authorities Act of 2015. The VA, in consultation with US Army Corps of Engineers, began its lengthy procurement process and finally has awarded a $148 million contract to begin construction of this important and long overdue bed tower project. Construction is expected to be completed by 2021.
“This project is an example of using common sense to do the right thing for those who have bravely defended our country. It has been a long and arduous process to get to this point, but I would not quit, and the results are going to be worth the effort. Our Veterans deserve the dignity that these private rooms will offer. I have always said that they should have access to the highest quality care in the very best facilities, and today we are one step closer to making that a reality. Additionally, taxpayers are owed the good stewardship that was reflected in this decision. I will continue to seek these kind of win-win opportunities for my constituents. That is what public service is all about,” said Bilirakis.