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May 23, 2000     (512) 463-0300

The Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Holds Hearing at Fort Bliss

EL PASO - The Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations met Tuesday, May 23, 2000 at Fort Bliss in El Paso..

Before the meeting started Col. Joseph Rodriguez was recognized for being the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The committee was chaired by Senator Shapleigh of El Paso. The Honorable County Judge Dolores Briones was invited to join the committee at the dias. She spoke of the concern that many El Paso veterans have about building a veterans nursing home at Fort Bliss. The closest home is in Big Springs, which is 350 miles away from El Paso.

Col. Berry Cantrell, U.S. Army, who is the Chief of Staff at Fort Bliss asked the committee to come up with a plan to expose the civilian population to the Armed Services. He said that only 6 percent of civilians have any exposure to the military.

Dr. Charles de Wetter, Member of the Texas Strategic Military Planning Commission spoke to the committee about the loyal relationship that Fort Bliss has had with the people of El Paso for 150 years. Brigadier General Michael Smith talked about the involvement of the Texas National Guard in its three phase plan to bring more use to Fort Bliss.

James Christoferson, Director of Defense Affairs addressed the committee about partnerships between the defense community and civilian communities. He told the committee that the state will need to compete against other states to get the federal funding for Texas bases.

John Sneed, Director of the Intergovernmental relations Department for the General Land Office, told the committee about the increased activity with the veteran's loan program since last session. The increased volume was a result of Senator Truan's bill that increased the loan limit that the veteran land board could offer to qualified veterans. The loan amount has increase from $45,000 to $203,000. With the authority that was given to the veteran land board they set a cap of $150,000. In the first 7 months of this fiscal year, 2,600 loans have been funded for home loans. Mr. Sneed also spoke about the future location of veteran nursing homes in Texas and the criteria that goes into approving a veterans nursing home in a community.

Committee members include Senators Carlos Truan of Corpus Christi, serving as chair, Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay. Steve Ogden of Bryan, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio

Public testimony was taken and the committee stands in recess until the call of the chair.

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