Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the just-unveiled Omnibus spending bill – a must-pass bill that funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year – includes $122,400,000 for construction at the Canandaigua VA Medical Campus. The bill, along with the funding allotment for construction at the Canandaigua VA Medical Campus, could be voted on by both the House and Senate as early as this week. The Canandaigua VA is one of only four VA construction projects in the country that Senate appropriators have recommended receive funds. The $122 million appropriation for the Canandaigua VA represents a substantial portion of Canandaigua’s estimated $300 million redevelopment plan; which includes a modern outpatient clinic, additional housing and services. Schumer has been a longtime supporter of the Canandaigua VA Medical campus including securing the land lease needed to break ground on the Cadence Square housing development. If the Congress passes the Omnibus bill, construction can move forward on this critical project as soon as the fall of 2015.
This major reconstruction project was originally announced seven years ago in 2007, following efforts by Schumer and the community in 2004 to convince the federal Capital Asset Realignment for Enhancement Services (CARES) Commission to not only keep the VA Campus open, but to modernize it for future generations of veteran use, and safeguard it from any future efforts to close the facility. To begin the redevelopment project, Schumer secured $36.58 million in FY10 to complete a new campus master plan, begin the project’s preliminary design work, and complete environmental assessments. In 2013, Schumer successfully pushed VA Secretary Shinseki to include funding for the site in their budget request.
“This is a major milestone in our quest to upgrade and modernize the Canandaigua VA Campus to better care for our veterans and, as we did in 2004, to defend against any future misguided efforts that would aim to close this facility. This investment is long overdue and will build the new modern, cutting-edge facilities that Rochester and Finger Lakes area veterans deserve after having served our country. Our vets have protected and defended us and it is our job to protect them when they come home. We owe it to them to ensure primary and specialist care facilities, counseling, and mental health resources are accessible in their neighborhood, and the Canandaigua VA plays an essential role in bettering the health and prosperity of our veterans. The inclusion of this provision in the omnibus bill means that we are on the precipice of finally getting this project underway,” said Senator Schumer. “All we need now is for this bill to pass both the House and the Senate, and then the request heads straight to the President’s desk. I am urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to vote for this bill and help us better serve these brave men and women when they return to the country they served.”
“New York is home to more than one million men and women who have answered our nation’s call and served with distinction in our Armed Forces,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “When these brave men and women return home to the country they served, we must deliver on our promise to them, including having a home and the resources necessary to provide for their families. This project would improve medical care and show this country’s commitment to caring for its veterans. They and their families have sacrificed for all of us and we owe them for their incredible service.”
Specifically, this $122 million will build the new modern Outpatient clinic by renovating Building #2 as well as building a new structure on now-empty land between Building #1 and Building #2. Additionally, Building #3 will be renovated to add new rehabilitation and behavioral health services and Building #1 will be renovated for new administrative support departments. The Canandaigua VA is one of only four VA construction projects throughout the country that Senate appropriators have recommended receive funds. The VA anticipates construction could begin as soon as fall 2015.
The Senators highlighted the urgent need for redevelopment of the Canandaigua VA to facilitate the center’s care for the aging veterans in the region in addition to reducing the staggering prevalence of homelessness and addiction among veterans who have recently returned home.
The Canandaigua VA Medical Center has provided services for veterans in the Rochester-Finger Lakes area since 1933 and has been recognized as a Center for Excellence. The facility houses the national VA Suicide Prevention/Crisis Hotline call center which has fielded 600,000 calls since opening in 2007. The campus is the only one in New York State and is one of 20 in the country to offer the Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership (VITAL) program to afford veterans the opportunity to fully access their benefits.