Veterans group blasts decision to ignore AIR commission recommendations, leaving veterans languishing with outdated, inconvenient care
ARLINGTON, Va.—Concerned Veterans for America on Monday responded to Senator Tester’s announcement that the Senate will take no further action to advance the AIR commission, allowing the critical process to effectively die. This inaction will deny veterans the benefits of a dynamic and modern VA health system designed to meet the needs of today’s veteran population. Instead, veterans will remain trapped in a rigid system that cannot adapt to the changing and unique needs of the veterans it serves.
CVA Senior Advisor Darin Selnick had this to say about the senators’ decision:
“To say this is disappointing is an understatement. Simply put, this decision is short-sighted and will hurt veterans by keeping them trapped in a broken and outdated system not built to address their needs. The AIR commission was the best chance to modernize the VA health care system to meet the needs of the veterans it serves. Rather than embracing and participating in this process, a handful of senators have chosen to put politics ahead of the veterans they and the VA claim to serve. Instead of allowing the process to work, they’d rather pass the buck at the expense of veterans. It’s unfortunate to see those who rightly hailed this as a win for veterans now fail to find the political willpower to do the right thing.”
Despite passing the AIR Commission provision as part of the 2018 VA MISSION Act with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress (House 347-70 and Senate 92-5)…
- In January of this year, the Biden administration postponed its recommendations to the AIR Commission, punting a required report outlining their plan to modernize the VA’s infrastructure footprint.
- That news came after the VA failed to meet the May 31, 2021, deadline to nominate Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) commissioners as required by the VA MISSION Act.
- Now, without ever even confirming the commissioners to act on the VA’s recommendations, some Senators have chosen to leave veterans trapped in a VA system with a clear track record of malfeasance and failure.
Why the AIR Commission needed – The VA is facing significant infrastructure challenges due to unused infrastructure, aging facilities (most are over 50 years old), and rising costs ($58-71 billion) to maintain these outdated facilities. Additionally, the veteran population is estimated to shrink by nearly 40 percent within the next 25 years. Further, today’s veterans opt to live in different communities compared to previous generations creating a significant strain on some facilities and leaving others with empty beds. Finally, healthcare delivery looks different from decades ago and with the addition of the Veteran Community Care Program, veterans have even more options for care.
Inaction will hurt veterans – The AIR process is critical to providing safe, modern, and efficient facilities for veterans to have their health care needs met. If the AIR process fails to move forward, it will hurt veterans most, keeping them in a system of aging and ill-or-mis-resourced facilities. With a greater outpatient focus, alternative models of care delivery (i.e., telehealth, community care, urgent care), the physical footprint of VA-operated facilities should look different. Confirming commissioners and supporting the AIR process is key to a modern and efficient VA health care system that puts the health care needs of the veteran first.
In the VA’s own words – “We owe those Veterans an agile and adaptable VA that keeps pace with their evolving needs and remains on the leading edge of U.S. health care. To do that, we must look to the future and take deliberate steps that will update our nationwide health care facility infrastructure and provide VA’s talented workforce with the tools they need to continue providing Veterans with world-class access and outcomes … VA came to our recommendations to the AIR Commission by asking ourselves one question above all else: what is best for the Veterans we serve?”