Secretary of Veterans Affairs Erik Shinseki has written Congressman Tim Griffin that his office believes the VA here followed the letter of the law in its purchase of property at 10th and Main for a new drop-in veterans clinic.
Shinseki's letter was a response to a letter Griffin, who has stood with the city against the location of the clinic, wrote to the secretary about his concerns over site selection. Griffin talked about the letter this morning at a meeting of the Arkansas Veterans Coalition. Griffin told the group that he had no question that the VA Clinic had outgrown its Second Street building and needed more space.
After the Times got a call about the Shinseki letter, I called Debbie Meece, VA clinic spokesman, to confirm the details. I've also called Congressman Griffin's office for a copy of the letter
but haven't received a response., which the office says will be released soon.
Apparently, Shinseki also said the VA here could have communicated its plans better and that he hoped communication would improve as the clinic goes forward, Meece said.
The letter leaves Griffin zero for two, since his invitation to U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, to visit Little Rock last week failed to produce any criticism of the VA's purchase of the property.
S.I. Property Management has applied for a building permit to remodel the old Cook Jeep dealership for the clinic, but the city hasn't approved it. On Tuesday, March 6, the City Board of Directors will take up an ordinance it's drafted to stymie the VA's move, by amending city code to require it to get a conditional use permit, which it does not currently need.
UPDATE: Griffin's office has released Shinseki's letter and, by way of showing that Rep. Miller did come to the aid of a fellow Republican, a letter Miller sent Shinseki demanding answers on the selection process.
Griffin's release on the jump.
Quick update on the VA’s decision to relocate the Drop-In Day Treatment Center.
As you may know, Rep. Griffin recently received a letter from VA Sec. Shinseki in response to a letter he wrote in January. Here’s a statement from Rep Tim Griffin regarding Sec. Shinseki’s letter:
“I appreciate Secretary Shinseki acknowledging that the federal government is obligated to work with the community on important issues like the relocation of the VA’s Drop-In Day Treatment Center. As I said in a recent op-ed, ‘It was widely known that the VA wanted a new location for the center. As VA officials are quick to point out, they advertised in the newspaper for a new site. That’s true, but it simply confirmed the fact that the VA was looking for a location and didn’t mention a specific one.’ While this issue remains unresolved, I’m convinced we will find a solution that best serves our veterans and the community. I also appreciate House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller’s continued interest in working toward that goal, and I look forward to reviewing Secretary Shinseki’s response to his recent inquiry.”
In addition, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-01) sent a letter to Secretary Shinseki yesterday asking him to respond to questions regarding the VA’s decision to relocate the Drop-In Day Treatment Center. Here is a statement from Chairman Miller regarding his letter:
“Despite the recent statement from Secretary Shinseki, it is important that we maintain transparency in VA’s decision-making processes, especially when decisions directly impact communities,” stated Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “I look forward to Secretary Shinseki’s response to my letter detailing the process that VA employed in regard to the relocation of the existing Day Treatment Center in Little Rock.”
Excerpts from Chairman Miller’s letter:
Did VA conduct any veteran population study to determine the best location for the center? If so, what was the result of that study? If not, why did you choose Main Street as the location?
It appears that the VA did not engage the local community (i.e., government officials, advocacy organizations, private citizens, local businesses, etc.) prior to awarding the lease. Please explain.
Please provide an accounting of the solicitation and lease award process.