By Rep. Colin Allred (TX-32)
As a country, we have made a promise to serve our veterans as they have bravely put their lives on the line to defend our freedom. That is why it is our duty as a nation to support our veterans as they transition to civilian life when they return home.
Making sure our veterans have access to health care and treatment that can address the unique health issues veterans face is incredibly important. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to serve as a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and why I led an effort along with Rep. Ron Wright (TX-6) and a bipartisan coalition to bring a VA health facility to Garland.
Texas currently has the second-highest population of veterans and the highest population of women veterans in the country. The North Texas veteran community has also become one of the fastest-growing in our nation. This rapid growth is welcome but comes with challenges. As a North Texan, born and raised, I know firsthand that North Texas is one of the best places to live and raise a family. But this growth has strained the resources our veterans depend on.
The North Texas VA Health System has been stretched thin due to the rising numbers of veterans in our region, with 40 to 80 veterans waiting for beds at the VA daily. As veterans of color will soon make up a third of the U.S. living veteran population, it is important they are able to get the treatment they need, and that their care is as accessible as possible.
Over the past year, I worked with the North Texas VA, Baylor, Scott & White, and the City of Garland to secure the old Baylor, Scott & White Hospital building to create the Garland VA Medical Center. Now, the 184,000 North Texas veterans who rely on the VA for care will have better access to services like mental health, primary care, and women’s health care services. The acquisition of this hospital will save the VA, and taxpayers, nearly $1 billion in costs, and allows the VA to open the facility sooner to treat veterans with COVID-19 to act as a backstop to the civilian hospital system, if needed. In the long term, the city of Garland will benefit from the thousands of jobs created from this facility.
Recently, I was able to visit the Garland VA Medical Center and see the hard work of our VA health care professionals in action as they help veterans on the frontlines of this pandemic. As we are now dealing with an unprecedented public health crisis, we are marshaling all the resources we have to beat the coronavirus, and this new facility will help our community fight the spread of coronavirus and provide desperately needed care for our veterans.
Over the past year, I’ve supported many bills aiding our veterans, including my bill to ensure veteran parents and their babies can get emergency transportation covered by the VA, and the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which has become law. I’ve also introduced a bill to help make sure veterans who rely on caregivers have the supplies they need to protect themselves against the COVID-19 pandemic, and voted to include $19.6 billion in funds in the CARES Act to help the VA fight this virus.
My office has also helped veterans and their spouses get the benefits they were owed from the VA, as well as awards and medals they earned for their service. If you need help visit allred.house.gov or call 972-972-7949.
The dedication, bravery and passion for service that our veterans and their families show every day continue to serve as an inspiration for me and my work in Congress. I will always fight to make sure that every veteran has access to the care and treatment they deserve.