Grassroots veterans group blasts Senate bill that would eliminate Asset and Infrastructure Review portion of bipartisan VA MISSION Act
ARLINGTON, Va.—Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) announced its opposition to legislation to eliminate the asset and infrastructure review (AIR) mandated by the bipartisan VA MISSION Act. This bill, introduced by Sens. Rounds and Manchin, would force the VA to maintain excess and aging infrastructure and would take valuable resources away from providing the best care possible for our veterans. The AIR provision of the VA MISSION Act would create a commission to evaluate the VA’s current medical facility footprint to ensure that it is best aligned with the current needs and demands of the VA patient population across the country.
Dan Caldwell, CVA’s executive director had this to say regarding the bill:
“This irresponsible and misguided legislation would force the VA to potentially waste billions in taxpayer dollars to maintain VA facilities that are clearly outdated and not serving the needs of the current or future veteran population. The asset and infrastructure review is critical to protecting the VA’s ability to serve our veterans, allowing the VA to modernize and adapt as the veteran population continues to change, and ensuring the VA is spending taxpayer dollars in the most responsible way when serving those veterans. We urge the Senate to reject this bill and we hope that Senators Rounds and Manchin reconsider this counterproductive proposal.”
Secretary Wilkie, during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday, stressed the importance of modernizing the VA, including the importance of making sure the VA’s facilities are up to the task of caring for our nation’s veterans. He pointed out that “ more than half of the buildings [he is] responsible for age in range from over 50 years to 100 years.” And he reminded the members that it was the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which, through the VA MISSION Act, directed the VA to conduct market assessments and create “the asset and infrastructure review commission to bring the VA up to speed where the veterans are.”
The VA is one of the largest federal property-holding agencies, owning buildings covering more than 151 million square feet and leasing over 1,500 buildings costing more than $340.6 million annually in rent. Former VA Secretary Shulkin has testified in previous hearings that the VA has hundreds of empty or under-utilized VA buildings that cost the federal government $25 million annually to maintain.
The VA MISSION Act – which contained the provision mandating the asset and infrastructure review –passed Congress on an overwhelming bipartisan vote and was signed into law by President Trump on June 6, 2018.