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Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn says Tulsa will get new VA medical center

A key player in congressional effort to reform VA health care, Coburn says Tulsa needs new center but not the “Taj Mahal” proposed by the department.
by Chris Casteel Published: June 13, 2014
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photo - 
 Sen. Tom Coburn is foregoing the last two years of term. U.S. Rep. James Lankford and former state Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon are seeking to fill his seat for the remainder of the term. AP PHOTO
  Susan Walsh - 
AP
Sen. Tom Coburn is foregoing the last two years of term. U.S. Rep. James Lankford and former state Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon are seeking to fill his seat for the remainder of the term. AP PHOTO Susan Walsh - AP

Sen. Tom Coburn, who is at odds with Sen. Jim Inhofe over funding for a new Veterans Affairs hospital in Tulsa, said Thursday he would make sure Tulsa gets a better facility, but not the “Taj Mahal” envisioned by the VA.

“We’re going to build a new facility,” Coburn said in an interview. “We’re going to do what’s right for the veterans and we’re going to get out of that cramped facility.”

Coburn agreed that the Tulsa VA center needs more and better space, but said the department had not done the kind of thorough analysis necessary to serve Tulsa-area veterans and maximize taxpayer dollars.

“They’re building a Taj Mahal when they should be building a medical clinic,” Coburn said. “They’re building what they want when they should be building what they need.”

Coburn, R-Muskogee, is a key player in the current effort in Congress to revamp VA medical care to cut down on wait times for appointments — and the manipulation of data regarding those wait times.

Coburn co-authored the Veterans Choice Act, which moved through the House and Senate this week; he will be on the committee that writes a final version. The legislation was combined with parts of another bill that included funding for 27 clinics nationwide, including Tulsa.

Coburn removed the Tulsa project from the legislation and said Thursday he did so because the proposal was flawed. He said he and his staff also were looking at the other projects in the bill.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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They’re building a Taj Mahal when they should be building a medical clinic. They’re building what they want when they should be building what they need.”

Sen. Tom Coburn,

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