- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - Veterans in Pahrump, Nevada are getting a long-sought larger outpatient clinic now that a federal construction contract has been awarded.

The news quickly turned political Wednesday when Nevada’s freshman Republican Congressman Cresent Hardy took credit saying in a statement that longtime Democratic Sen. Harry Reid and the Democratic representative unseated by Hardy couldn’t cut through “red tape” to make it happen.

“I have not ceased to apply pressure to the highest levels of the VA, demanding progress for the sake of veterans who in many cases drive more than an hour to get the care they’ve been promised,” Hardy said.

The new clinic will offer much of the same services the current, smaller clinic offers and veterans seeking specialized care will still need to drive to Las Vegas. However, the larger space better equips the VA to handle a growing population.

The current clinic needed a new home after the agency was told its lease would end. An examination of six months of appointment data last year at VA hospitals and clinics by The Associated Press showed the Pahrump clinic had very few waits longer than 30 days.

Hardy narrowly won Nevada’s fourth district seat in November and already faces challengers in 2016.

Reid’s own statement didn’t take personal credit but cited years of work.

“I am glad the contract has been signed but it should not have taken this long to approve a clinic for Pahrump veterans,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Southern Nevada Healthcare System announced Wednesday it awarded a contract to W&J; Development LLC worth $12.1 million to build the nearly 10,000-square-foot clinic at Basin Avenue and Lola Lane. The deal includes a 20-year lease.

Pahrump is a rural area on the California border in Nye County about an hour’s drive west of Las Vegas.

The Veterans Affairs department first sought building bids three years ago.

Construction is expected to take 18 months.

Reid’s spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said the Senate leader’s work with Veterans Affairs to make the clinic happen spans 11 years.

“This shouldn’t be about taking credit,” Orthman said. She ribbed Hardy on Twitter posing what accomplishment of Reid’s Hardy would take credit for next.

“Lots of people have worked on this for a long time, before Nevada even had a fourth congressional seat,” she said in an emailed statement. “There is no question this has been far too long of a process - that’s why we continued to pressure the VA - but it should be noted that this isn’t something that was magically solved in the last few months.”

Republican Sen. Dean Heller also released a statement Wednesday. “From day one, I have committed to holding the VA accountable to the timelines it has provided to communities across the state, and Pahrump is no exception.”

So did Democratic Rep. Dina Titus who said she has, “carefully followed the development of this project, and often voiced the need for this facility with senior VA officials.”

All four lawmakers, Hardy, Reid, Heller and Titus, promised to ensure the clinic is completed on time without further delay.

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