Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Thursday announced that following their push, 190 million dollars in funding for the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Campus modernization project was secured in the just-passed 2019 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Appropriations Bill.
The much-needed funding will enable the completion of the second and final phase of the modernization project, which began following a 2003 VA plan to close the Canandaigua VA Medical Campus.
“Fifteen years ago, based on incorrect claims it was outdated, the Canandaigua VA was targeted for closure. But together with our Rochester Finger Lakes-area veterans, we stopped that in its tracks and instead launched this plan to modernize the campus to provide state-of-the-art care and guard against any future attempts to close it. And while I was proud of the role I played to secure the $161 million for Phase 1, securing the final $190 million ensures the job will not be left half-finished,” said Senator Schumer. “Today, instead of our veterans looking over their shoulders worried that the Canandaigua VA would once again be a target for closure, they can now have the peace of mind that the state-of-the-art upgrades promised to this 150-acre, the 85-year-old campus will be completed. The upgrades will enable the Canandaigua VA to provide cutting-edge care to meet the needs of our veterans in the 21st century, all on a modernized campus with facilities that are cost-effective to operate for decades to come. Our veterans, who have fought valiantly to protect and serve their country, deserve the peace of mind of knowing that upon returning home, they will have access to top-notch health care and medical services like those now made possible through this $351 million modernization.”
“Congress has a responsibility to ensure high-quality medical care and services for the men and women who have served our nation in uniform. This newly-passed appropriations legislation will allow the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs Medical Center to complete the much-needed facility upgrades and expansions to provide the highest standard of care for our veterans in Rochester and in the Finger Lakes,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I fought to make sure that this funding was included in the final version of the Military Construction and VA Appropriations bill, and I will always work to support our veterans and their families.”
The Phase II funding will go toward the upgrades and modernization of the Canandaigua VA campus, including the construction of a 120-bed Community Living Center Complex that replaces its now outdated long-term living spaces, the renovation of its now dilapidated 50-bed Domiciliary facility where veterans live for 3-6 months before re-entering the community after receiving assistance for homelessness, substance abuse, or mental or behavior health therapy, and the renovation of building 3 to improve rehab and physical therapy offerings, as well as other upgrades.
The senators’ successful push for Phase II funding is the culmination of a multi-year effort to save the Canandaigua VA from plans by the VA in 2003 to close the facility and to instead invest in the Canandaigua VA campus so that a new state-of-the-art facility can serve Rochester Finger Lakes veterans for decades to come. Schumer and Gillibrand expressed just how important this funding will be for veterans across the Rochester-Finger Lakes region, and vowed to always fight on behalf of Rochester area veterans to help them receive the care they need and deserve. Today’s announcement represents another positive step in the process: funding the construction of Phase II projects that will expand the availability of convenient, high-quality medical care for Rochester-area veterans, stave off any future attempts to close the facility, and make the 85-year-old, 150-acre VA campus more efficient and cost-effective to operate.
The $190 million that Senators Schumer and Gillibrand secured for Phase II would construct several new buildings and renovate several others to improve care and upgrade services for local veterans. Specifically, Phase II will include:
1) Construction of a new Community Living Center (CLC) complex that will provide long-term housing with geriatric and hospice care for 120 veterans as well as a new veterans Community Center. 10 new “small houses” or cottages will be built on the VA campus, each with room for 12 residents to replace the campus’ now outdated long-term living spaces. In a Community Living Center (CLC), VA provides up to nursing home level of care, which includes help with activities of daily living (e.g., bathing and getting dressed) and skilled nursing and medical care. Veteran residents can receive long-term recovery care, mental health treatment, and geriatric care. Unlike many nursing homes in the past, a CLC resembles “home” as much as possible. There are activities for veterans of all ages. There are family friendly places for visiting. These 10 new “small houses” will replace the Canandaigua VA’s current long-term care housing facilities which are outdated.
• Within the CLC Complex, they will also construct a new Veteran Community Center that will serve as a modern central shared gathering place for various veteran and community activities.
2) Renovation and modernization of the existing 50-bed Domiciliary facility that provides short-term (3-6 months) housing for veterans while they recover from substance abuse, homelessness, and mental/behavioral health concerns. The existing Domiciliary is among the buildings in the worst shape on the Canandaigua campus and most in need of renovations to address infrastructure and maintenance issues. Many of the patient rooms lack bathrooms and are not designed to support 21st century level of care.
• Veteran residents in the Domiciliary get a place to heal from problems with substance abuse, homelessness or vocational challenges. While living here the VA establishes a treatment plan that prepares the Veteran with the skills needed to maintain a better quality of life on a permanent basis. Over the course of three to six months, new behaviors are developed to foster independence and success upon reentering the community.
3) Renovation of Building 3 to improve Rehab & Physical Therapy offerings, renovate Building 4 to support Outpatient/Administrative/Logistics support functions of the Campus, and renovate the Building 5 ventilation system.
Phase 1 broke ground in April and includes several upgrades including the construction of a new Outpatient Clinic that is expected to open in 2022. The VA estimates that with final $190 million in federal funding secured in Fiscal Year 2019, the Phase II upgrades can be completed by the end of 2023.
The senators explained that the securing of the final $190 million needed to complete Phase II would take the VA campus to the next level for the benefit of Rochester area veterans and their families. They also proclaimed that the second phase of the operation would serve as an economic boon to the region, creating high-paying construction jobs for the duration of the project, as well as many more career opportunities in the healthcare industry over the coming years. The announcement comes on the heels of Schumer’s visit to the Canandaigua Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Campus earlier this year.
The VA originally announced in 2007 that it would initiate a major reconstruction project to modernize the Canandaigua VA Medical Center in order to provide state-of-the-art care and meet the needs of current and future veterans. This announcement came after Schumer, local veterans, and the community, in 2003-2004, convinced the VA’s Capital Asset Realignment for Enhancement Services (CARES) Commission to reverse its recommendation to close the Canandaigua Medical Center. To begin the redevelopment project, Schumer secured $36.58 million in FY 2010 to complete a new campus master plan. In 2013, Schumer wrote to then VA Secretary Shinseki to include funding for the site in their budget request. In 2014, Schumer announced the VA agreed to this request and would seek the necessary $122.4 million, which Schumer then helped secure as part of the FY 2015 omnibus spending bill. Altogether the $161M Phase I scope of work includes building a new 84,200 sq. ft. three-story modern Outpatient Clinic in now undeveloped space between buildings 1 and 2, as well as upgrades to utilities, access roads, parking and construction of additional state-of-the-art updates. Schumer said the construction and completion of this vital project will not only bring area veterans the upgraded facilities and care they require near their homes, but will also provide a significant local investment to positively impact the regional economy.
Schumer explained the $161 million Phase I of the major Canandaigua VA Campus Modernization redevelopment is now underway, and set to be completed by the end of 2021. Senator Schumer helped deliver $161 million that funded Phase I’s design, construction, and asbestos removal. Schumer announced in January that local Rochester contractor Pike Construction, through a joint development with another contractor PJ Dick, was awarded the $143,698,000 Phase I construction contract.