Earlier this week, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it will move forward with getting rid of its vacant buildings in two years. Vacant and underused facilities, both in the VA and Department of Defense, serve as an unnecessary drain on funding. Officials in both those departments have asked for the facilities to go through a process to determine their viability and usefulness, but lawmakers are often gun-shy to authorize those examinations.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, however, is not shy on this subject. Regardless of the political concerns that those in Congress may have with closing or realigning underused or vacant facilities, Secretary Shulkin sees the benefit of moving resources and funding to the facilities that need funding rather than propping up unused infrastructure.
Reports from the VA stated that the VA “currently has 430 vacant or mostly vacant buildings that are on average more than 60 years old, and cost taxpayers more than $7 million per year to maintain.” It’s difficult to argue with the logic of disposing of hundreds of vacant facilities that were built in the 1950s, especially when those resources will go towards facilities that need the funds.
This is yet another move from Secretary Shulkin to operate the VA with the resources it already has rather than throwing money at a construction and infrastructure problem. Shulkin has stated on multiple occasions that the VA’s problems are not resource problems, but rather management and efficiency problems. Proposing the disposal of unneeded facilities to fund needed facilities is an excellent step towards efficiency and good management.
Shulkin announced today that 71 facilities are in the process of disposal or reuse now, and the rest of the 430 will follow in the next few years. The VA is also going to examine its underutilized facilities as well as office spaces to find more room for efficiency. The resources and funds saved can then be put towards a better veteran experience at the VA. Well done, Secretary Shulkin, for tackling these issues head-on!
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