Hoeven Invites Veterans Affairs Secretary Shinseki to Visit Fargo VA Hospital, Thanks Him for Veterans Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the Appropriations Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, Senator John Hoeven today expressed appreciation to U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki for the work the agency does to serve veterans and asked how Congress can help.

            “Thank you for your service on behalf of our veterans,” Hoeven told the secretary. “It’s tremendously important work. The VA facility in Fargo, North Dakota is outstanding.  I have toured it on a number of occasions. The facility is a good facility and you’re improving it. Your people there are caring people. I have talked to veterans and they, across the board, have expressed appreciation for the quality of care and service they get.”

            Hoeven invited Shinseki to visit North Dakota to tour the Fargo Veterans Medical Center facility to see firsthand the work they’re doing.

            “I would like to encourage you sometime to come out to tour the facility. They’re making expansion improvements to it right now. I think it’s a clear demonstration of quality work you’re doing on behalf of our great veterans and I thank you for that.”

Given the budget challenges the nation is facing, and the importance of taking care of veterans, Hoeven asked the secretary what Congress can do to help make the agency’s dollars go further. He asked about key pressure points in the agency’s ability to take care of veterans, especially in light of the increased incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder and combat head injuries.

“Investments in IT, research and the quality of health care we have underway today must continue,” Shinseki said. “Investments in IT for veterans’ benefits decisions have to be sustained so that we can accept the increased number of claims we get now.”

With regard to challenges, Shinseki said the growth and number of veterans enrolling in the system is its greatest challenge. “A million claims a year is not unusual. We expect it will be 1.4 to 1.5 million this year alone.”

The secretary said the program the agency has now is a good one. They have a strategic plan that will anticipate where veterans will need services. If the agency doesn’t do that well, he said, it will have to adjust over time. “That will take a lot of work and engagement with Congress to understand what that future plan will look like,” he said.

Hoeven asked if the Department of Veterans Affairs has the ability to move resources to provide care and if the agency needs more fixed assets or fixed facilities to serve more veterans. “Can you focus your dollars into taking care of people?”

“Right now I think we have the capability to respond in the way you expressed,” Shinseki said. “We do from time to time have to review our priorities and that involves discussing them with the Congress, and I’m comfortable that we have a relationship and a good dialogue. I believe that we have the tools at this point and I’m happy to come back and work with you.”

Click here to view the exchange between Senator Hoeven and Secretary Shinseki.