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President Biden signs law naming new VA clinic on Oʻahu after ‘dear friend’

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President Joe BIden signs into law legislation naming the under construction VA clinic on O’ahu after the man who originally spearheaded the project: the late former US Senator from Hawai’i, Daniel Akaka. Photo Courtesy: US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono

President Joe Biden today signed into law legislation introduced by US Sen. Mazie K. Hirono to name a new Veterans Administration clinic that is under construction on Oʻahu after the late former US Sen. Daniel Kahikina Akaka of Hawaiʻi.

The Advanced Leeward Outpatient Health Care Access (ALOHA) VA clinic project was first spearheaded by Sen. Akaka, who worked alongside Hawaiʻi veterans.  

At the signing ceremony, President Biden said: “It is my honor to sign a bill that will name the new VA outpatient clinic that will be built in Hawaiʻi after a dear friend of mine and a former Senate colleague who I worked with – Danny Akaka.” 

“Danny was a great friend. He was an Army veteran in World War II and a former Chair of the Committee on Veterans Affairs. One of the finest people I ever served with, he really was a man of great honor and integrity.”

Sen. Hirono (D-HI) said throughout Akaka’s decades of public service, including as chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, he was a determined champion for veterans in Hawaiʻi.

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“Sen. Akaka once said that caring for veterans is ‘one of our most sacred obligations as a nation,’ and this clinic will help provide that care for veterans in Hawaiʻi,” Sen. Hirono said. “I’ll continue working to ensure all of our veterans get the high-quality care and support they deserve.”

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In March 2021, Sen. Hirono, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and US Rep. Kai Kahele of Hawaiʻi secured authorization for the General Services Administration to approve the awarding of a 15-year lease at an annual rent of $5.9 million for the ALOHA project.

It also authorizes an up-front lump sum payment of $18 million to facilitate construction of the facility. When completed, the ALOHA Project will be a 66,000-foot multi-specialty VA clinic in Leeward O’ahu, providing primary care, mental health, audiology, women veterans care, physical and occupational therapy, dental, prosthetics and specialty care for veterans in the area.

The clinic also will reduce wait times, increase provider availability and help alleviate traffic challenges and parking deficits veterans currently experience on the Tripler Army Medical Center campus, where the Spark M. Matsunaga Veterans Affairs Medical Center is located.

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In Congress, Sen. Akaka worked to expand access to GI Bill benefits; bring recognition to Asian-American WWII veterans; and secure one-time compensation for the Philippine Scouts.

Sen. Hirono helped pass in March the Senate bipartisan legislation to expand access to breast cancer screening and care for veterans. Hirono also introduced the Veterans and Family Information Act, which required the VA to make information more accessible for non-English language speakers, enabling veterans and their families to better understand the benefits, programs, and resources available to them.

She also introduced the Every Veteran Counts Act, directing the VA to establish and regularly update a database of veterans’ demographic data. This would allow for better understanding and accommodation of the needs of veterans from every race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation.

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