WEST PALM BEACH – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-21) introduced legislation to mandate that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provide space within VA facilities for Congressional offices. Rep. Mast opened the first-ever Congressional office housed in a VA facility in 2017, but was evicted by the VA in 2019.
The Improving Veterans Access to Congressional Services Act would require that the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs permit a Member of Congress to use a facility in order to meet with constituents. Moreover, the bill requires the VA 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.
“We know that this works. Not only does it provide accountability to the VA, but it allows my team and me to meet veterans when and where they’re having a problem and address it on the spot,” Rep. Mast said. “It doesn’t matter if our office is the size of a storage closet - the presence of a Member of Congress makes a difference and leads to better care for our veterans. The VA’s mission is ‘to care for him who shall have borne the battle,’ and it should be supportive of any program that helps fulfill that mission.”
In the roughly two years that Rep. Mast held office hours in the West Palm VA, over 500 veterans took advantage of the opportunity to meet with the Congressman and members of his team. Many of those served suffered from mobility issues that would make traveling to a separate office difficult. The office also allowed for close oversight of the VA and to identify problems promptly.
The bipartisan Improving Veterans Access to Congressional Services Act is endorsed by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Minority Veterans of America (MVA), and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). U.S. Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-21) is the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the legislation.
The full text of the bill can be read here.