‘There’s no excuse:’ Rep. Bilirakis rips Bay Pines VA for heat, hot water outage


(WFLA) – Homeless veterans living at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center with no heat and no hot water are getting some temporary relief.

Outraged by what he learned from our Target 8 investigation, US Congressman Gus Bilirakis toured the problem facility on Thursday evening.

He also met with several veterans.

“Not to have the heat in the common areas and in the rooms, the bedrooms, it’s inexcusable. No question,” said Bilirakis.

Built in 1972, the outdated steam heat system is proving to difficult to repair.

Congressman Bilirakis found out a permanent fix is three months away.RELATED: VA Secretary asks why vets were placed in Bay Pines building without heat

“But within six days, we’re hopeful that the residents will have, the very least, have the heat in the common areas but also in their bedrooms and also access to hot water in building 102,” he said.

Bay Pines Healthcare Director Suzanne Klinker defends the action taken so far.

“Sir, we’re doing all we can and we’re focusing on the solution,” said Klinker.

She insists veterans are understanding of the problem and appreciative of the stop gap fixes.

“There’s been heat in our common areas and the veterans have had temperatures in the common areas between 60 and 80 degrees, sir,” she said.

Affected veterans shower in a portable unit or at nearby facilities, and if they prefer, they can sleep elsewhere, but none have elected to do so.

8 On Your Side wanted to know how Director Klinker got along when our temperatures were in the 30s and 40s.

Here is part of what she said:

Question: “What was the temperature in your office when all this was going on? Did you have a nice, warm place?”

Suzanne Klinker: “I don’t know what the temperature was in my office.”

Question: “But it was not the 60 that were told about in here?”

Suzanne Klinker: “No. It was not.”

As of last Friday, it’s supposed to take 30 days to fabricate parts, then 60 days to install a new, permanent steam line.

Congressman Bilirakis said it shouldn’t have taken Target 8 investigation to get this mess fixed.

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