WAILUKU, Hawaii — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs approved lease to build a new facility in Hawaii.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono announced Wednesday the approval to build the island’s one-stop facility for veterans in a news release.
The facility will aim to consolidate medical, psychological and administrative services into a single location to reduce confusion, travel and overcrowding, The Maui News reported (http://bit.ly/2ufC3v3 ).
“I’m just thrilled to hear this news today,” Mitch Skaggerberg, president of the Maui County Veterans Council, said Wednesday. “This is one of the biggest moments for veterans ever in Maui County.”
Hirono made the announcement after meeting with the new director of the Veterans Affairs’ Pacific Islands Health Care System, Jennifer Gutowski. The Hawaii senator said she discussed working with Gutowski to “strengthen the VA’s commitment to improving communication and services” for veterans in the state.
“Today’s announcement is long overdue for our veterans on Maui and Kauai,” Hirono said. “In February, I heard directly from Maui veterans, who expressed their deep, continuing frustration that this important project had remained stalled for years.
“With this approval, we can move forward on design and construction of the facility that these veterans deserve.”
The lease is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the state Department of Education, which owns the land, according to the release.
Veterans Affairs strategic planner Craig Oswald said Maui’s lease agreement for the state property is a first for Veterans Affairs, which builds its facilities on land it or the federal government owns. The lease process involving nonfederal land is now referred to as the “Maui Doctrine” in Washington, D.C.
The $9.9 million facility will be built near Maui High School in Kahului.
The facility will consolidate the island’s three service locations: the Maui Vet Center in Maui Lani, which serves as a counseling center; the state Office of Veterans Services in Kahului, which assists veterans with applications for medical benefits; and the VA’s Maui Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Kahului, which provides general health care.
Oswald said in March he expected construction to start next year and to last about 18 months. He estimated the clinic could open in the latter part of 2019 or early 2020.