According to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officials, there are approximately 1,000 non-vacant, but underused, facilities scattered across the nation. The VA stated these facilities create a significant drain on department resources, but closing any of them would require an act of Congress.
The VA Mission Act, which was passed last year, included the VA Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR Commission) that is scheduled for 2022. According to the law, VA department officials are required to perform market assessments in order to determine if older VA facilities should either be closed or rebuilt.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie recommended to lawmakers in February that they should consider moving up the timeline for the commission. Two senators, both of whom are members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, want the commission to be scrapped.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., introduced legislation to cancel the mandated AIR Commission scheduled for 2022. Both senators contended that the idea would be harmful to rural veterans, due to the military’s controversial base closing.
Even though the legislation passed overwhelmingly last summer, Sen. Mike Rounds voted against the VA Mission Act and the AIR Commission. Their concerns are that the commission will overlook the essential services that VA medical centers provide in rural areas, and instead recommend cuts on the basis of fewer patients.
As of now, there are no formal guidelines for the commission. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called the senators’ concerns “misguided”.
For those veterans who desire to obtain medical treatment outside of VA medical centers, the AIR Commission is supposed to work in conjunction with the new community care rules that go into place this summer.
It is these new rules that have stirred a debate over the proposed privatization of VA operations and care, but VA officials have stated that these concerns are unfounded.
Concerned Veterans for America executive director, Dan Caldwell, stated openly that the senators’ legislation was “irresponsible and misguided” and promised to fight it.
“(The bill) would force the VA to potentially waste billions in taxpayer dollars to maintain VA facilities that are clearly outdated and not serving the needs of the current or future veteran population,” according to Dan Caldwell. “We urge the Senate to reject this bill and we hope Sens. Rounds and Manchin reconsider this counterproductive proposal.”
The Injured Veterans legal team at Gordon & Partners is here for military veterans and their families. Please contact us immediately, if you are having difficulty with your claim or you are not receiving the disability benefits to which you are entitled. Call us at 1-888-231-9144 or fill out the form on this website.
Read the full story here: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/04/01/should-va-move-ahead-with-a-brac-style-commission-to-shutter-some-hospitals/