STAMFORD, Conn. — As U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal toured the Stamford Outpatient Veterans Clinic on Thursday, he had the opportunity to thank veterans for their service and explain a plan to invest $10 billion to modernize VA facilities nationwide.
The modernization plan was unveiled last month by Senate Democrats. Sixty percent of VA buildings are 50 years old or more, and the VA estimates its facilities need as much as $50 billion in capital investments over the next decade.
Blumenthal (D-Conn.) took a tour of the Stamford clinic, shaking hands and speaking with veterans.
Jeff Calcott, a Marine Corps Veteran, was pleased to see Blumenthal. "I couldn’t be happier with the healthcare I'm receiving here. I wouldn't feel more comfortable anywhere else," Calcott said.
The clinic provides veterans with such services as mental health care, weight loss programs and general checkups.
Located on Summer Street, the clinic has 2,100 square feet of space, but “ideally we would like to be 6,000 square feet. This would allow them to see more people,” said John Callahan, associate director of the clinic.
"Veterans are more likely to seek care if it’s convenient," Blumenthal said.
It is one of six community clinics in Connecticut run by the Veterans Healthcare Healthcare System. The others are in Danbury, Winsted, Waterbury, New London and Willimantic.
On his way out of the clinic, Blumenthal addressed some of the policies of President Donald Trump's administration.
Blumenthal said Trump’s recent orders on deporting undocumented immigrants “threaten to rip apart families and strip away critical legal rights of people who are arrested and detained in mass arrests.
"I hope that the administration will be more focused on helping Americans than hurting immigrants," he said.
Blumenthal also hopes the Trump administration will work toward comprehensive immigration reform that provides not only more secure borders “but also a path to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are now in the shadows.
“They have children who were born here or brought here at a young age — the dreamers — and I'm pleased that the plan seems to be to allow those dreamers to stay here, but what about their parents? If their parents are deported, then families will be ripped apart," he said.
Regarding the anti-Semitic incidents that have been reported around the U.S., Blumenthal said he is "hopeful that President Trump will denounce anti-Semitic hate crimes directly, emphatically and repeatedly."
Trump's recent silence on this topic has been regrettable -- "and the silence spoke volumes," he said.
Blumenthal said he plans to introduce legislation "that will increase the penalties for these kinds of hate crimes as well as provide more resources for state and local police to take action against them."
Efforts to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act are a disastrous mistake, he said.
“Unless there is some effort to replace it, we should be working together to improve it, not end it. So, I will oppose staunchly and steadfastly any effort to repeal it. I welcome ways that we can improve it and fix the problems."