US Senate bill includes Hawaii veterans facility

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HONOLULU (AP) - A bill in the U.S. Senate would enable Hawaii to open a new veterans health care facility on Oahu.

The bill was announced by Senate Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders on Thursday. It includes funding for more than two dozen new facilities nationwide.

The Hawaii facility is expected to serve 15,000 veterans, said Meaghan Smith, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz. It will offer primary care, mental health, diagnostic and specialty care services.

“When I meet with veterans, access to care has been and continues to be the number one issue,” said U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono in a statement. “There is no easy answer to solve this problem and we must attack access issues - and all issues our veterans face in getting care - on multiple fronts.”

The bill includes authorization of $15.8 million for a lease for a new center in the Ewa Plain area of Oahu. It will share its location with the Kapolei Vet Center, Department of Defense and Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Office.

U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa said she introduced legislation to name the center after former Sen. Daniel Akaka to recognize his commitment to veterans. A provision in the bill would allow veterans who live 40 miles from a VA facility to seek care from a private doctor, which would make seeking medical care more convenient for veterans on neighbor islands, Hanabusa said in a statement.

The bill also would allow the Veterans Administration to immediately fire hospital administrators and executives who performed poorly.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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