VA Flood Preparedness Act aims to improve healthcare access for veterans

In Charleston, flooding is an issue for the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and impacts the...
In Charleston, flooding is an issue for the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and impacts the care veterans get.(Live 5)
Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 7:47 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (WCSC) - U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace was one of two lawmakers to introduce a bipartisan law designed to fight challenges veterans face while trying to access healthcare in flood-prone areas.

Mace, a Republican who represents the state’s First Congressional District, was joined by Louisiana Democrat Rep. Troy Carter in introduce the VA Flood Preparedness Act.

In Charleston, flooding is an issue for the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center and impacts the care veterans get, VA officials say.

“We can predict a natural disaster, we can predict severe weather, we can’t always predict the tides. We do everything we can. However, it becomes an issue,” Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System spokesman Wayne Capps said. “We need to get employees to work, and we need to get veterans to their care.”

The bill would increase collaboration between local authorities and the VA so the VA can participate in flooding surveys and studies for the streets adjacent to their facilities, leading to solutions for the flooding problems. Mace says the legislation would allow the VA to have greater ownership over decision-making on parking lots, entrances, and exits to the facility, which they don’t have ownership of now.

“It does hinder access for veterans who oftentimes if they’re disabled or older and they’re retired, they have difficulty getting around, their mobility is comprised,” Mace said. “When you add flooding on top of it and having to drive there, get out of vehicles and access it, it makes it very difficult. What we want to do is ease that and allow the VA hospital to have more control over how the parking lot is operated, and how and where you can enter and exit to avoid complications for those patients.”

The bill would reach beyond the Lowcountry and across the country to other VA hospitals and medical centers facing similar issues.

Capps says the flooding happens all around their downtown facility, especially around Bee Street. They have a high-water vehicle just for flooding circumstances so they can get employees to work and veterans to their care.

The facility is the third-fastest growing VA in the nation, Capps said.

“We’re here to provide the top-quality care that you deserve. You worked so hard for it, and we’re here to provide that,” Capps said. “If we can contribute to the infrastructure and provide better access to your care, we’re excited to do that.”

Mace says she’s been working on this legislation for six months. She says it could take weeks or months to get the bill out of the committee and then out of the House. They are still waiting on a date for the committee hearing.

“Certainly, the VA and access to healthcare for our veterans is of utmost importance in the First Congressional District,” Mace said.

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