(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted to authorize $38 million to build a new Department of Veterans Affairs nursing home at the VA's American Lake facility in Tacoma. U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has also included the funding to rebuild the facility in the FY 2007 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill.
"This is wonderful news for the veterans who have been living in an unsafe building for far too long," said Senator Murray. "The passage of this bill means that help is on the way. The veterans in the American Lake facility deserve better, and today Congress recognized their plight."
The new 83-bed facility that this funding will go towards will replace the existing nursing home, which was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake and which has a series of seismic, fire safety and life safety hazards. Currently, 70 veterans are housed in the facility and demand is expected to continue growing in the coming years. The funding will also go towards building an Alzheimer's ward and dietetics kitchen.
Senator Murray has worked on two fronts in an effort to secure the funding necessary to rebuild the American Lake facility. She has used her position on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee to place $38 million in the FY07 Appropriations bill for the facility. She also fought to authorize that funding through her position as a senior member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
"The veterans and staff at American Lake live every day knowing that another earthquake could be devastating," said Senator Murray. "The urgency of their situation demanded today's action."
The VA CARES Commission has identified seismically damaged buildings as a top priority for replacement. The project now moves to the President for his approval as part of S. 3421, the "Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006."
The Bush Administration has also called the project a high priority. According to the President's budget request, "Building 2 and 3 at American Lake are at an exceptionally high risk from seismic events and have significant deficiencies in meeting current VA criteria and life safety codes. Patient and staff safety is at increased risk. . . . American Lake Division has been identified as 3rd on the list of medical centers with the most Exceptionally High Risk Building and Building 2 ranks as number 29 nationally." [Source: Department of Veterans Affairs, FY 2007 Budget Submission, February 2006, Volume 3, page 2-35]