Hoeven, VA Secretary Shinseki Meet With State Vet Leaders

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today hosted U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki in Fargo, where the secretary toured the Gladys Ray Veterans Drop-In Center and met with leadership of North Dakota veteran services organizations. 

Shinseki is in North Dakota at Sen. Hoeven’s request. Earlier this week Shinseki met with Native American Veterans in Bismarck. Hoeven was unable to attend that meeting due to changes in the U.S. Senate’s schedule related to debt ceiling negotiations in Washington. Both Hoeven and Shinseki are in North Dakota today to meet with local veterans and service organizations, and to see firsthand the work being done at veteran facilities in the state. 

Hoeven serves on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. 

At an Appropriations subcommittee hearing in March, Hoeven asked the secretary not only to visit the region’s veterans facilities, but also to meet with veterans to make sure resources are available to provide them with quality care. That includes not only quality medical care through the region’s nine outpatient clinics – seven in North Dakota and two in Minnesota – but also resources to address other challenges veterans encounter, like homelessness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  

“We have soldiers who have been at war for ten years, as well as older veterans, and we need to make sure they’re well taken care of,” Hoeven said. “That’s why it’s important to tour the Gladys Ray Drop-In Center, and to meet at the Veterans Medical Center in Fargo with all of the veterans groups to get their input and feedback.” 

Leaders of the American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America, as well as state Veterans Affairs Commissioner Lonnie Wangen and leadership from the North Dakota Veterans Home participated in the roundtable discussion. 

The Gladys Ray Veterans Drop-In Center officially opened last week in Fargo. Its goals are to prevent homelessness for veterans whenever possible and to assist veterans who are homeless with housing.  The center also will offer respite from weather, provide shower and laundry facilities, mail drop services, clothing, access to hot meals and referrals to other needed services.  The Drop-In Center will also work hand in hand with existing Fargo VA Health Care for Homeless Veterans programs including Outreach and Veterans Justice Outreach. 

In the March hearing with Shinseki, Hoeven asked what Congress can do to help make the agency’s dollars go further, given the budget challenges the nation is facing and the importance of taking care of veterans. “Investments in IT, research and the quality of health care we have underway today must continue,” Shinseki said in the hearing. 

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,” he said. 

“Secretary Shinseki has identified and is delivering on important priorities for our veterans, and I stand ready to support him in any way I can as a member of the Senate,” Hoeven said. “We made the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs budget a real priority in the Appropriations Committee, and in fact, it is the first full budget to go through the process. North Dakotans have an incredible record of service in all of our nation’s military organizations, which is why ensuring that our veterans are treated well and receive high-quality care is very important.”