A key component of the VA MISSION Act is coming up on a deadline. Commissioners for the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission are to be nominated by the president by the end of May. If that deadline is not met, the process for establishing the commission will be thrown off course.
The AIR Commission and its recommendations will play an integral role in ensuring veterans have access to quality health care when and where they need it.
While we wait for commissioners to be nominated and approved, there are a lot of myths going around about what the AIR Commission’s job is and what the results will be for veterans.
Here are the top four myths and facts about the AIR Commission you should know.
Myth: The purpose of the AIR Commission is to close facilities.
Fact: The AIR Commission’s purpose is to improve quality and access at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.
The main goal of the commissioners is to do just want their name suggests: review the assets and infrastructure under VA control to understand what the VA owns, leases, and operates.
Studies show the VA owns around 6,000 facilities; 1,000 of these are either empty or underused. The average VA facility is around 50 years old, and billions of dollars will be needed to invest in upkeep. These facilities may be draining resources away from veterans rather than providing opportunities for care.
The purpose is not to shut down facilities; the purpose is to understand what facilities are currently providing to ensure resources are in the best place for veterans.
Myth: The AIR Commission has the authority to unilaterally close VA facilities.
Fact: The AIR Commission doesn’t have authority to make any changes at the VA.
The commission is provided the means and opportunity to:
- review all VA facilities
- look at usage at those facilities
- study demographic changes around the country to see where veterans are living and receiving their care
- understand new medical innovations that might change the way veterans get care
With that information, the AIR Commission will make recommendations as to how the VA should understand and use the collected information. It will then be up to the president, Congress, and the VA to review, discuss, and eventually work through those recommendations.
Myth: The AIR Commission will harm veterans and limit their access to care.
Fact: The AIR Commission will make recommendations focused on better outcomes for veterans.
This commission is meant to be a resource for department officials and will be studying the current situation at VA facilities so they can make recommendations for improvement. The commission does not have the authority to limit care.
The goal is to improve access to care by ensuring VA resources are being allocated to where veterans need them.
This means the commission will investigate changes in veteran population such as age and type of injury.
But it also means studying where veterans are living and receiving care and what community options are already available in those areas. Studies are showing veterans are moving into different areas of the country, and the VA should be dynamic enough to adapt.
Reviewing where the resources are and where they should be will help drive better health care outcomes for vets.
Myth: The VA is the only system that can deliver high quality health care to veterans.
Fact: Both VA and non-VA care can work together for veterans.
The VA is built on the promise that the nation will take care of those who put on the uniform, and it often does a good job, especially when it comes to specialty care for service-connected injuries.
But there are ways that community care can act as a supplement where the VA may not be the best place for veterans to seek care. VA and non-VA care should be working together to provide the best outcomes for veterans, because ultimately they are the top priority.
Want to know more about the AIR Commission? Read our explainer.