WASHINGTON — On the second anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that Recovery Act funds are playing a major role this year in advancing much-needed infrastructure and other construction nationwide to benefit our Nation’s Veterans.
“This will be a banner year for VA in serving more Veterans more efficiently in more places,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “We are pleased to be able to improve buildings and expand the capacity of VA’s healthcare network and national cemeteries to serve Veterans.”
Since February 2009, VA has distributed $1.3 billion in Recovery Act funds to modernize medical facilities, make improvements at national cemeteries and award grants to states for Veterans homes. VA has more than 1,100 Recovery funded projects underway or completed in VA medical centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Nineteen VA medical centers received between $5 million and $20 million for major repairs, renovation or energy conservation initiatives. The impact of these Recovery dollars affects more than 5 million Veterans who receive care in VA health services across the nation. Nearly 70 percent of all Recovery funds have already been paid to various contractors. The balance of funds are currently on contract to complete improvements and modernizations of existing projects.
The stimulus funding is providing, among many improvements, a solar photovoltaic system at the Albuquerque VA Medical Center, replacement of a central boiler plant at the Danville, Ill., hospital, and chiller installations for the West Palm Beach hospital. Other Recovery Act projects are adding 26,000 medical facility parking spaces, enhancing nearly 14,000 bed spaces, and investing in energy or “greening” projects. VA is contributing to “greening” the U.S. economy with these projects, with all new construction designed to meet sustainable building principles.
In 2010, VA invested $826 million to improve its energy infrastructure. A total of $487 million in Recovery Act funds were devoted to renewable energy projects, such as solar, wind, and biomass-fueled cogeneration systems; installing utility metering at all VA-owned facilities to monitor the use of natural gas, steam, and chilled water; increasing energy and water conservation measures; and upgrading infrastructure improvements at existing facilities around the country, such as boiler and chiller systems, and heating, ventilation, and cooling systems to promote better efficiency. All projects are well underway in 2011, and VA will soon see the benefits of the new projects contribute to reducing the agency’s environmental footprint.
In 2011, VA is devoting $276 million to more projects of this type, including “re-tuning” of building systems to improve energy efficiency and provide more comfort for Veterans and employees. VA plans to add to its list of 25 “green” certified buildings with over 13 percent of the square-footage already certified. VA is assessing all of its owned buildings to identify those that can be eligible for a third-party “green” building certification in 2011.
More information on all of these on-going energy projects and other sustainability initiatives can be accessed at the VA’s green management program webpage, www.green.va.gov.
Throughout VA’s 131 national cemeteries, 392 improvement projects are underway using $50 million in stimulus funds, including realigning and cleaning about 200,000 headstones and markers and renovating turf.
Recovery Act grants totaling $150 million are helping states build or improve Veterans homes.
On the horizon this year is an even broader scope of construction activity.
VA has more than $11 billion in major building projects in either design or construction this year. They include six new VA medical centers as well as outpatient clinics, mental health facilities, spinal cord injury centers, new and expanded national cemeteries, renovation and modernization projects and seismic safety projects.
This year, VA will have 31 structural projects in design and nine beginning construction. These will include new hospitals in Orlando, Fla.; Las Vegas; Denver; New Orleans; Omaha, Neb.; and Louisville, Ky.; new outpatient clinics in Alameda, Calif.; Pittsburgh, and Walla Walla, Wash.; and new spinal cord injury treatment centers in Brockton, Mass.; Bronx, N.Y.; Dallas; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Milwaukee. The new hospitals and other projects will add nearly 3,500 beds.
Sixteen VA national cemeteries will be expanded, bringing major improvements and further development of burial space, while 10 future cemetery sites will be identified this year, including in urban areas. Another six new cemeteries will be in various stages of building near Birmingham, Ala.; Bakersfield, Calif.; Columbia, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Sarasota, Fla.; and Philadelphia.
When these projects are completed, they will add 424,000 additional gravesites to VA’s national cemeteries, including 141,000 columbarium niches for cremated remains.