State reps plan to file bills for veterans health at UT-RGV

Hidalgo County’s state representatives plan to file at least one bill next year to give the medical school at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley resources to provide veterans’ healthcare.

State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, announced Thursday he planned to file a bill next legislative session to create an arm of the medical school devoted solely to veterans’ care.

“One of things the senator (state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen) and I have in the works at this point is making sure the new medical school has a wing that is dedicated to veterans,” Canales said Thursday at an Edinburg Chamber of Commerce public affairs luncheon, where he was a speaker along with Hinojosa.

While saying a draft of the bill was in preliminary form, Canales said in a follow-up interview the idea was to “seek funding for the university system to allot funds for a wing dedicated to mental health studies and/or treatment of veterans or veteran-related mental health problems.”

Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D-Mission, said he’s been working for weeks on such a bill. And he downplayed Canales’ involvement.

“Not that I’m aware of, no,” Muñoz said, when asked if Canales had been a part of the working group. “So I don’t know if his effort is different, or if he’s going to want to be a part of ours, but the only thing I can speak of is what we’ve done on our end, and trying to make sure that the idea and the concept that we have would be realistic and be something we can accomplish and attain, because we don’t want to leave anyone with an empty promise.”

Muñoz’s plan, at this point, is less specific than Canales’.

“The end result is: one, getting authorization from the federal government to allow the state be part of an effort like this, utilizing the resources from the new medical school and even (Texas A & M University System) that I think will cover the different facets of care that I think are needed for our veterans,” he said.

Felix Rodriguez, a Vietnam War veteran and a local veterans advocate, confirmed that he’d been met with Hinojosa, Canales and Muñoz about the idea. He said he first came to Canales, and asked him to carry legislation next session to bring a veterans healthcare facility under the new medical school at UT-RGV, but Muñoz took the lead on the effort.

Hinojosa, who plans to bring a companion bill in the Senate, said the push has been a group endeavor. And, after last session saw the Valley delegation coalesce to pass the legislation creating UT-RGV, Canales said taking credit was unimportant.

“A wise person once said: ‘You can do anything if you don’t care who gets the credit,’” he said. “What matters is we’re working together to improve healthcare for our veterans."

Muñoz agreed both sides are on the same page.

I think everybody’s intentions are the same, which is to do something that is workable,” he said.

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