2:32 PM EDT

Corrine Brown, D-FL 3rd

Ms. CORRINE BROWN of Florida. Mr. Chairman, first of all, I want to thank Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Obey, and Chairman Edwards for bringing this bill to the floor. The motto of the former Veterans Secretary, my friend Jessie Brown, was ``putting veterans first.''

Well, the leadership they have shown, bringing the largest increase in the history of veterans funding to the floor, over $7 billion, I have got to thank you, sir. I have served on this committee for 15 years, and for 15 years we have struggled to put the veterans first. And I am so pleased that the House of Representatives under your leadership has finally put the veterans first.

Mr. Chairman, I rise on my amendment to bring attention to a travesty occurring in my district. A travesty not just affecting my district, but this regional hospital affects Florida and Georgia.

The Gainesville VA Medical Center is 40 years old and looks every day of it. There are five beds to a room, no shower, and no place for families.

This facility received one of the highest rates of returning Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and is being shortchanged by a lack of proper facilities. The bed tower project includes 228 single-patient bedrooms for surgical, medical, and psychiatric patients. This includes extra space for support of the psychiatric care inpatient program. Finally, the building itself was required to be structurally strengthened to protect it from potential terrorist attack since we are part of the national emergency

response system. The current design will be completed in June 2007 and will be ready to be released for bid in September 2007.

Since the approval by the National CARES Commission and initial funding allocation, much has changed in the construction world. The dual impacts of Hurricane Katrina and the construction boom in China have caused the costs of all construction in the U.S. to rise.

The total estimated construction cost is over $103 million. The original projection was $64 million for construction. That leaves a shortfall of about $40 million.

Every month of delay costs about $1.1 million. An additional $40 million is needed in order to complete the project.

The men and women returning to Florida and southern Georgia will be greatly impacted, and I would like to work with the committee to resolve this matter.

Mr. Chairman, do I have the word of the chairman to look into this matter?