Washington—President Obama today signed legislation to fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs through the next fiscal year. The bill included Senator Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) amendment to allow critical seismic-safety upgrades to VA facilities in California to proceed. Senator Feinstein previously secured funding for these projects in last year’s spending bill. However, the department was unable to spend the money due to a technical requirement that all major VA projects must also be approved by the Veterans’ Affairs committees.
“California’s VA facilities remain seriously vulnerable to the next big earthquake,” said Senator Feinstein. “Many of the buildings were built before modern seismic safety standards were developed. Making sure our veterans are protected in an earthquake is a top priority for me, and I will keep pushing for more funding until all of California’s VA facilities are safe.”
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there is a greater than 99 percent chance that California will be hit by a 6.7 magnitude or greater earthquake within the next 30 years. It also reports that California’s risk of being struck by a magnitude 8.0 or greater earthquake has increased by nearly 50 percent since the agency completed its last estimate in 2008.
A 6.6 earthquake struck near San Fernando in 1971, destroying the VA’s San Fernando hospital. The earthquake killed 30 veterans and 10 employees at the hospital, accounting for the majority of the fatalities that occurred during the disaster.
VA Seismic Projects
San Francisco: $158 million to retrofit or replace four “exceptionally high risk” buildings at Fort Miley.
Los Angeles: $35 million to continue seismic renovations to existing buildings and for renovations to homeless housing at the West Los Angeles VA facility.
Long Beach: $161 million to demolish and replace existing a community living center and mental health facility that are “exceptionally high risk” for seismic damage. The funds will also be used to construct a new combined heat and power plant as well as a parking structure. An additional $30 million was included in the legislation signed by the President today, but it must still be separately authorized in the future by the Veteran Affairs’ committees. Senator Feinstein is working with Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to secure that authorization now that the funding has been approved.
Additional VA Projects
In addition to the seismic projects, Senator Feinstein’s amendment also included authorization for several additional projects at California VA facilities.
Alameda: $70 million for a new clinic and cemetery at the former Naval Air Station at Alameda Point.
Fremont and French Camp: $139 million to construct two new VA clinics to replace the Livermore facility and to build a community living center for the Central Valley.
Earlier this month, Senator Feinstein sent a letter urging VA Secretary McDonald to request additional funds for California VA seismic-safety projects in next year’s federal budget. San Francisco, Palo Alto, West Los Angeles, and San Diego will still need additional funds to fully retrofit or replace high-risk buildings on these campuses.