Congressman Kevin McCarthy praised a major step toward replacement of the Bakersfield Veterans Affairs (VA) Community-Based Outpatient Clinic. The VA announced Thursday Solicitation for Offers on local properties to build a replacement clinic.
The announcement comes eight years after the Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledged the current Bakersfield facility lacks resources to provide certain specialty services. As a result, many veterans must travel upwards of six hours roundtrip to Los Angeles for treatment. The replacement clinic, currently scheduled to open in 2021, would expand primary care, mental health, and specialty services for Bakersfield veterans.
"Today's announcement brings Bakersfield and Kern County veterans one step closer to accessing the quality health care they deserve in our community," McCarthy said. "The new clinic would provide much needed services locally and potentially reduce the need for local veterans to travel to L.A. - spending hours on the road - to receive care."
Congress authorized replacing the current facility in 2010 following the VA's recommendations. A site for the new clinic was selected in 2015 but was canceled due to potential eminent domain concerns related to the California High Speed Rail project, causing additional delay as the VA restarted the acquisition process. Mounting delays led McCarthy to take legislative action last year to include a provision in the 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill pressuring the VA to advance the replacement project.
"Despite overwhelming congressional support for the new outpatient clinic, the replacement facility remained in limbo for years," McCarthy said. "That is why I am requiring the VA to send Congress periodic updates on the project and will continue to communicate our veterans needs directly to VA Secretary David Shulkin. I commend Secretary Shulkin and the Trump Administration for recognizing the needs of our local veterans and jumpstarting the process."
Among them is Dick Taylor, Kern County Veterans Service Department Director, who praised the VA's announcement.
"Our veterans have earned the right and deserve no less than a clear and concise decision which will result in them receiving the new VA Clinic they so richly deserve," Taylor said. "I am grateful for Congressman McCarthy's diligence in making this become a reality."
Wendy Porter, Wounded Heroes Fund Executive Director, reacted with optimism.
"The Wounded Heroes Fund is incredibly excited to hear the time has finally arrived for a new and updated VA Clinic in Bakersfield," said Porter. "This clinic, which will service our deserving Kern County veterans, will soon come to fruition with the release of the VA's Solicitation for Offers. This is incredible news for our community! We are hopeful that this is the beginning of a long awaited more medically expansive VA Clinic and we look forward to the day we can attend the ground breaking ceremony."