Introduced last week in the House Veterans Affairs Committee, a major VA reform bill is slated for mark up this Wednesday. The bill, the VA Asset and Infrastructure Review Act of 2017, sets to address the hundreds of empty and under-utilized VA buildings by establishing a commission to make recommendations on modernization, consolidation, and realignment of the VA’s current infrastructure.
The VA has devoted an increasing amount of resources to maintain aging and excess infrastructure across the country. VA Secretary Shulkin has testified that the VA spends $25 million annually to maintain these aging and underused buildings.
According to the VA, the department operates more than 430 vacant buildings and 735 under-utilized buildings. However, Secretary Shulkin has stated that these 1100 facilities could either be consolidated or eliminated, with no impact to veteran care.
Reviewing VA facilities has been one of the Secretary’s top priorities. This proposal has bipartisan backing with VA secretaries under Presidents Bush, and Obama all stating the need for a comprehensive asset review and realignment.
With over 57 percent of the VA’s facilities at least 50 years old, and most of the vacant buildings built a century ago, the VA needs to better align its medical facilities and services to provide the quality care veterans have earned.
As the veteran population declines, and with more concentration on outpatient and telehealth care, the VA should refrain from spending resources on old and aging buildings that serve little to no purpose. A commission needs to determine what facilities need to be consolidated or eliminated to better serve veterans where they need care. Due to the changing veteran demographics, in some areas, veterans are forced to drive long distances to VA medical facilities. In other areas, VA facilities go largely unused.
Ultimately, funding and maintaining empty buildings does nothing to benefit or help veterans. However, the VA Asset and Infrastructure Review Act of 2017 is a common-sense solution in rectifying this issue. By ensuring resources are used efficiently and effectively, this legislation will be a win-win for veterans and taxpayers.
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