Southern Nevada Veterans Medical Center Dedicated As Candidates Vie For Support From Important Constituency

Nevada political leaders, veterans and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki gathered in North Las Vegas today to dedicate the new Southern Nevada VA Medical Center.

The state-of-the-art complex includes a full-service VA hospital, outpatient clinic and long-term care facility and will serve the needs of Nevada veterans and their families.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., locked in a tough Senate race, both attended the ceremonies, as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Berkley helped secure authorization for the $600 million in funding needed to complete the trio of new facilities. She also wrote and helped pass the legislation that provided the land for the new medical center at no cost to the VA.

Rep. Shelley Berkley - D-Nev.

“Our veterans earned their benefits through their military service to our nation and this new VA medical center will provide these brave men and women the high-quality care they deserve – including vital mental health services,” Berkley said in a statement. “After working for years to turn this dream into a reality for our Nevada veterans, I’m so proud of what’s been accomplished in the construction of this new complex and what it means for our community and the vets who will receive medical care and other services at our new state-of-the-art VA medical center.”

Heller said in remarks at the dedication: “I’ve personally toured this hospital as it has been built and I’m proud to tell you that Nevada is now home to the finest VA hospital in the nation.”

“This hospital will improve the quality of healthcare for thousands of veterans from the region,” he said. “This facility includes a surgical center, nursing home and extended care unit, and space to care for veterans who suffer with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and with other mental health issues. These state-of-the-art facilities are designed to meet the needs of virtually every health and wellness issue our veterans could face.”

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Heller said the facility will let Nevada veterans get care at home rather than have to travel out of state.

Shinseki said the hospital keeps a promise made by the VA with the 164,000 veterans who live in Clark, Lincoln and Nye counties, all 234,000 veterans who live in Nevada as well as those from surrounding states who will be able to get care at the facility.

“The Las Vegas VAMC underscores VA’s commitment to provide the best care anywhere to America’s veterans, particularly in the critical area of mental health,” said Dr. Robert Petzel, VA’s Under Secretary for Health. “The opening of this world-class facility is another milestone, and ensures VA provides the care and services our veterans have earned through their service.”

The facility will have 90 inpatient beds, a 120-bed community living center (skilled nursing home care facility), and an ambulatory care center. The 90 inpatient beds include a state-of-the-art 22-bed mental health unit, 48 medical/surgical beds, and 20 intensive care unit beds.

Candidates at both the national and state levels are reaching out to veterans as the November general election approaches.

Both President Obama and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno last month. Vice President Joe Biden also spoke at the Disabled American Veterans’ national convention in Las Vegas over the weekend.

Heller said he has a long record of support for veterans, and his campaign recently announced his Veterans for Heller Coalition, made up of more than 140 veterans, including Carson City Mayor Bob Crowell, a Democrat; Major General Drennan “Tony” Clark, a former adjutant general for Nevada and a former Republican for Reid in his 2010 Senate race; Kirk Lippold, commander of the USS Cole when it was attacked in Yemen in 2000; and Major General L.D. Johnston, a former commander at Nellis Air Force Base.

“I’m humbled by the support of so many of our nation’s heroes,” Heller said. “We can never repay these individuals for their service, but it is Congress’ responsibility to make sure those who have served in the Armed Forces receive the benefits they earned and deserve.”

Heller recently introduced the Veterans Small Business Protection Act, which ensures that surviving spouses and children are eligible for small business benefits.

Heller also introduced the Women’s Homeless Veterans Act, requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to set aside 15 percent of funds provided to VA’s Grant and Per Diem Program for homeless veterans with special needs. It also directs assistance to homeless female veterans as well as children.

Berkley said she has worked for veterans throughout her career.

The Berkley campaign also criticized Heller in June when the Women’s Homeless Veterans Act had a hearing, saying that Heller “tried to fool Nevada’s veterans into believing he is a champion for their issues even though last year he voted to gut $75 million from a homeless veterans program, which would have eliminated housing vouchers for some 11,000 veterans across the country.”

“Given Senator Heller’s track record of  putting Wall Street first and gutting assistance for homeless veterans, Nevadans are not going to be fooled by this election year attempt to mask his wrong priorities,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, Shelley Berkley for U.S. Senate Communications Director. “Nevada’s veterans are counting on someone like Shelley Berkley who wakes up every morning itching to stand up and fight to protect the benefits they earned after risking their lives for this nation.”