Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL) has introduced legislation to encourage opening Congressional offices inside Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities across the nation.
“Serving veterans in our community is not only deeply personal to me, it’s also the most frequent request that I get as a Member of Congress,” Mast said. “Opening the first-ever Congressional office inside a VA hospital has allowed us to help veterans on the spot: when and where they’re having an issue. Every single Member of Congress should do the same at their local VA and this bill will pave the way to make that high level of service a reality for our veterans.”
Mast, who is a veteran himself, served in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years, earning medals including The Bronze Star Medal, The Army Commendation Medal for Valor, The Purple Heart Medal, and The Defense Meritorious Service Medal. While deployed in Afghanistan, he worked as a bomb disposal expert under the elite Joint Special Operations Command. The last improvised explosive device that he found resulted in catastrophic injuries, which included the loss of both of his legs.
Mast opened the first ever Congressional office inside of a VA facility in West Palm Beach this past January. He said other Members of Congress have asked him about the process to open his office so that they can replicate the service for veterans at their local VA facilities. Mast noted, however, that opening the office took more than a year of navigating bureaucratic red tape.
The Improving Veterans Access to Congressional Services Act (H.R. 5413) aims to expedite the process by requiring the VA Secretary to permit a Member of Congress to use a facility of the Department of Veterans Affairs for the purpose of meeting with constituents.
The bill also requires the VA to develop regulations regarding the use of agency 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.