New strategy to help veterans

Two U.S. congressional representatives from Florida introduced legislation Monday that would make it easier for the 435 members of Congress to open congressional offices at Veterans Affairs facilities across the nation.

“We want to make sure it’s as easy as possible for veterans who are facing issues at the VA to be able to contact and access their members of Congress,” said U.S. Congressman Darren Soto (FL-09).

The legislation is called the Improving Veterans Access to Congressional Services Act. It would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to allow members of congress to open offices inside VA hospitals facilities in order to meet with constituents and resolve veteran-related casework.

“If there are things that we can do to improve the process of veterans getting healthcare treatment, cutting down their wait times, getting the benefits they need and making sure that the have all the information they need we are right there,” Congressman Soto said.

Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) said he opened the first congressional office inside at VA facility in January 2018 at the West Palm Beach VA. Congressman Soto opened an office at the Lake Nona VA IN August 2018. Congressman Mast said they had to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs for months to make it happen.

“They created a lot of hoops for both of us to go out and jump through. At first they say okay we need to do a memorandum of understanding on this and then they’d come back a month later and say ok now you need to do this,” Mast said.

Congressmen Mast and Soto said they expect to have a committee meeting on the legislation soon and hope it will continue to move forward. They want to see the legislation passed as soon as possible. “This needs to happen immediately. It’s beneficial for our veterans for this to happen immediately,” said Congressman Mast. “It’s beneficial for oversight of our VA facilities for this to happen immediately.”