Sen. Kaine stops at ODU on Commonwealth tour

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Sen. Tim Kaine stopped at Old Dominion University Friday, as part of his five-day tour of the Commonwealth. He talked to 10 On Your Side about a number of current events and pressing topics.

Sea Level Rise

Kaine told a crowd of ROTC cadets, service members and veterans about a growing realization that steps need to be taken to help military installations deal with sea level rise. New budget amendments in the Senate show bi-partisan support of addressing climate change.

“I asked them to, in the budget, create an opportunity for special funding to preserve our Department of Defense installations from the affects of climate change, and, surprisingly, I got votes, bi-partisan votes, and I got that in the budget,” Kaine said.

He credited ODU’s 2014 summer symposium with really helping more bi-partisan elected officials to get on board.

Sequestration

Sen. Kaine also spoke to the group about another major issue for so many Hampton Roads families: sequestration.

He said a newly passed budget is a step in the right direction, but not a final solution to sequestration. He talked to the students about the vigorous, last-minute work to get the senate budget passed.

“When we passed the senate budget two weeks ago today … I got the last amendment in and … it was an amendment to find a replacement for 80 percent of the sequester cuts,” he said.

Kaine said the work’s not done. The next step is in the defense authorizing bill that they’ll work on now and in May. He hopes that before Memorial day it will pass with anti-sequester language, too.

Health Care for Veterans

Patience is wearing thin — that’s the message from Sen. Kaine to the head of Veterans Affairs, when it comes to wait times for medical care. Wait times for veterans to be seen by VA doctors remain a major problem in several regions, including Hampton Roads.

Kaine was a co-sponsor of the legislation last summer designed to reduce wait-times. That’s also when Robert McDonald took over as the new secretary of Veterans Affairs. Kaine said he still has confidence that McDonald will get the wait times down, but he wants to see more progress.

“We’re not yet seeing the improvements in waiting times that we want,” he said. “We will come up probably in July, on a year from passage of our bill. If we get to the year deadline and there isn’t some dramatic improvement, then there’s going to be real difficulty.”

Hampton remains near the bottom of the list, nationally, when it comes to wait times. The latest data shows, on average, a veteran scheduling an appointment at the Hampton VA Medical Center can expect to wait 28 days. The national average is seven days.

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