WASHINGTON—U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto announced today that they have reached a compromise agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that will enable their congressional offices to continue serving central Florida veterans at the Orlando Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Orlando VAMC). Last year, the VA sent a letter to Murphy and Soto informing them that they would be evicted from the Orlando VAMC at the end of 2019. Staff for Murphy and Soto used the office to help veteran constituents—many of whom are elderly or disabled—who might find it challenging or inconvenient to travel to other locations to obtain assistance from their congressional representatives.
As the result of a months-long negotiation, Murphy and Soto successfully secured a new arrangement that will enable them to continue serving veterans at the Orlando VAMC twice a month. Murphy’s office will provide constituent services every second and fourth Thursday of the month from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M., while Soto’s office will serve veterans every second and fourth Friday of the month from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. Murphy and Soto’s staff will be stationed at a table in a VAMC hallway, rather than in a permanent office.
“Our presence inside the Orlando VA provides veterans in central Florida with a convenient location to seek assistance from my office. Removing congressional offices from this facility would have created more barriers for veterans to receive constituent services and jeopardized their ability to cut through bureaucratic red tape. That’s why I’m glad we worked with the Trump Administration to settle this issue and focus on what matters most, which is helping veterans in our community access all of the services and benefits they have earned,” said Murphy.
“While I am deeply disappointed that our service hours at the VA are being decreased from twice a week to twice a month, my office is more dedicated than ever in supporting our veteran community. We are here to help with all veteran-related casework from the start all the way until the end. In addition to the VA, my staff has expanded their outreach efforts to include weekly veteran hours in Osceola and Polk County. We’re here and ready to serve!” said Soto.
The office that Murphy and Soto previously occupied was approximately 9 x 11 feet, providing just enough space for a small desk and several chairs. It was located next to a coffee shop and other Veteran Service Offices (VSOs) that provide services to veterans, including Disabled American Veterans (DAV), American Veterans (AMVETS), and the American Legion. The Orlando VAMC continues to allow other non-healthcare service offices to have a permanent presence at Lake Nona, including the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs (FDVA) and the Orange County Veteran Service Office.
U.S. Reps. Brian Mast, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel, and Ted Deutch in South Florida had a similar arrangement at the West Palm Beach VA and also received an eviction notice last year.