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House renews law allowing VA to build hospitals with private aid

House renews law allowing VA to build hospitals with private aid

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A rendering of the Omaha VA ambulatory care center. The CHIP-IN for Veterans Act permitted a public-private partnership to build the clinic.

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the Victory II Apartments in Omaha on Friday, September 18, 2020. The apartments are designated for homeless veterans, with supportive services from the VA also on site. General (Ret.) John F. Kelly, center, a former White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of Homeland Security, spoke at the opening celebration.

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to extend for five more years the 2016 law that permitted a public-private partnership to build the Omaha VA Medical Center’s new $86 million ambulatory care clinic, according to a press release from Nebraska Republican Rep. Don Bacon.

The House rolled the extension of the Communities Helping Invest through Property and Improvements Needed (CHIP-IN) for Veterans Act into its annual “extenders” bill, the release said.

The legislation allows local communities to help the Department of Veterans Affairs — or even take the lead — in building VA health care facilities.

Bacon’s Democratic predecessor, Brad Ashford, first proposed the legislation and worked with GOP colleagues in the Nebraska delegation to get it passed in order to build the clinic in Omaha.

Bacon defeated Ashford in 2016, but he supported the law and the VA project. The former opponents have since become friends, with Ashford endorsing Bacon’s reelection last year.

Bacon and Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., introduced the renewal legislation. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, has sponsored a similar bill in the Senate. The Senate must also pass the bill before it can become law.

The original CHIP-IN for Veterans Act allowed Omaha’s Heritage Services to raise $30 million for the VA clinic, and lead the construction. Since its founding in 1989, the nonprofit has been involved in about two dozen local projects including the Holland Performing Arts Center, TD Ameritrade Park and the CHI Health Center.

The law has also enabled the construction of a new VA hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is slated to open in 2024.

Bacon said the Omaha VA also hopes to build additional facilities using the law, possibly including a new inpatient hospital — possibly as part of Project NExT, the new planned teaching hospital on the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus that would be dedicated, in part, to training medical personnel to respond to natural disasters.

“Our veterans deserve high quality and modern health services,” Bacon said in the statement. “This extension of the CHIP IN Act will allow communities to invest in and help create these facilities.”

Omaha World-Herald: Afternoon Update

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