U.S. Congressmen Brian Mast (FL-18) and Darren Soto (FL-9) today introduced legislation to streamline the opening of Congressional offices inside Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities across the nation.
The introduction of the bill, called the Improving Veterans Access to Congressional Services Act, follows Rep. Mast opening the first-ever Congressional office inside a VA facility at the West Palm Beach VA in January 2018 and Rep. Soto opening an office inside the Lake Nova VA in August 2018.
“Serving veterans in our community is not only deeply personal to me, it’s also the most frequent request that I get as a Member of Congress,” Rep. Mast said. “Opening the first-ever Congressional office inside a VA hospital has allowed us to help veterans on the spot: when and where they’re having an issue. Every single Member of Congress should do the same at their local VA and this bill will pave the way to make that high level of service a reality for our veterans.”
“At its core, this legislation is about helping our veterans,” Rep. Soto said. “Having Congressional offices located inside VA facilities allows for more efficient and easily accessible services provided to veterans who need it most. Almost half of our office’s constituent casework are veterans cases. Since we opened our Congressional office in the Lake Nona VA Hospital, we’ve been able to increase our in-person, same day walk-in services for veterans. Representative Mast and I are proof of the benefits our offices can provide. We hope this can be replicated in VA facilities across the nation.”
Unfortunately, opening an office in a VA facility current involves significant bureaucratic red tape. The Improving Veterans Access to Congressional Services Act would cut down on this bureaucracy by requiring the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to permit a Member of Congress to use a facility of the Department of Veterans Affairs for the purpose of meeting with constituents of the Member. Moreover, the bill requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop regulations regarding the use of VA office space by Members of Congress, mandating that the space be made available during normal business hours and in a location that is easily accessible to the Member’s constituents.
Read the text of the bill here.