News Releases

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) announced that she has secured $38 million to build a new Department of Veterans Affairs nursing home at the VA's American Lake facility in Tacoma. The new 83-bed facility would 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.

"Today veterans are living in an unsafe building that could literally collapse on them if there's an earthquake," Murray said. "Veterans deserve better and that's why I fought to provide the dollars to build a new nursing home and Alzheimer's ward in Tacoma."

Murray included the funding in the FY 2007 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which passed the full Senate Appropriations Committee today. Murray is a member of the subcommittee that writes the bill. The funding would construct an 83-bed nursing home, Alzheimer's ward and dietetics kitchen.

While Murray succeeded in securing the funding, the project must still be approved by Congress in a separate authorizing bill. Senator Larry Craig (R-Id), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has refused to authorize the major VA construction projects that the Bush Administration has requested for FY 2007. At a hearing on June 22nd, Murray fought for the Veterans Affairs Committee to approve American Lake and other projects, but her efforts were defeated on a party-line vote.

On Tuesday, July 18th, Murray again spoke out on the need for approval at a meeting of Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs.

"Without these funds, veterans in this nursing care facility will remain in a dangerous and life-threatening situation where one small earthquake could cause a dire situation," Murray told subcommittee members Tuesday.

The VA CARES Commission has identified seismically damaged building as a top priority for replacement.

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]