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Twelve senators reject VA’s plans to reshape health care real estate under AIR Commission


A bipartisan group of dozen senators is rejecting the Department of Veterans Affairs’ plan to shut or overhaul hospitals and medical services that not meet the health care wants of veterans.

The senators, half of which serve on the Senate VA Committee, mentioned in an announcement Monday that they might not proceed with nominees to serve on the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission.

The fee, under the 2018 MISSION Act, is meant to…

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A bipartisan group of dozen senators is rejecting the Department of Veterans Affairs’ plan to shut or overhaul hospitals and medical services that not meet the health care wants of veterans.

The senators, half of which serve on the Senate VA Committee, mentioned in an announcement Monday that they might not proceed with nominees to serve on the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission.

The fee, under the 2018 MISSION Act, is meant to evaluation the VA’s suggestions launched in March on the way it expects to right-size its real-estate portfolio of medical services throughout the nation.

“As senators, we share a commitment to expanding and strengthening modern VA infrastructure in a way that upholds our obligations to America’s veterans. We believe the recommendations put forth to the AIR Commission are not reflective of that goal, and would put veterans in both rural and urban areas at a disadvantage, which is why we are announcing that this process does not have our support and will not move forward,” the senators mentioned.

President Joe Biden submitted nine nominees to serve on the AIR Commission, however the Senate has but to act on any of these nominees. If confirmed, commissioners would evaluation VA’s plans and challenge their very own suggestions to the White House.

President Joe Biden, under this timeline, has till Feb. 15, 2023, to approve the AIR Commission’s closing suggestions.

If he doesn’t submit his approval to Congress earlier than March 30, 2023, the method for modernizing and realigning VA’s services under the MISSION Act ends.

Without the Senate’s affirmation of the nominees, the fee is not going to be established, and the method to right-size VA real estate under the VA MISSION Act is not going to transfer ahead.

Melissa Bryant, VA’s appearing assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, mentioned that no matter Congress decides to do with the AIR Commission, “we will continue to fight for the funding and modernization that our veterans deserve.”

“President Biden has insisted that our Veterans in the 21st century should not be forced to receive care in early 20th century buildings.  The median age of VA’s hospitals is nearly 60 years old, and that’s why the President requested nearly $20 billion in new VA infrastructure spending last year and it is why he has requested the largest ever investment in VA infrastructure in his FY23  budget,” Bryant mentioned.

The VA’s suggestions to the AIR Commission are based mostly on market analysis that began in 2019, and doesn’t account for shifts within the demand for health care because the begin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The AIR Commission course of obtained criticism earlier than the VA even issued its suggestions.

The American Federation of Government Employees has held a number of rallies protesting the deliberate closure of VA medical services throughout the nation.

AFGE National President Everett Kelley, an Army veteran, mentioned senators’ rejection of the AIR Commission plan “is a major victory for veterans, military families, the American health care system, VA employees, and all those who rely on the VA,”

“This closure commission was a bad idea from the start. Automatic, mass closures of VA facilities would deny veterans the comprehensive, quality care that our nation owes to those who have defended our country – an obligation first recognized by President Abraham Lincoln,” Kelley mentioned in an announcement.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) opposes the closure of two VA medical centers in Manhattan and Brooklyn. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) also opposes plans to close the VAMC in Manhattan.

The 12 senators, of their assertion, mentioned the AIR Commission “is not necessary for our continued push to invest in VA health infrastructure.”

“Together we remain dedicated to providing the Department with the resources and tools it needs to continue delivering quality care and earned services to veterans in 21st-century facilities — now and into the future,” they added.

The VA, under its plan, is trying to shut roughly three dozen VA medical facilities (VAMCs) however would change about half of them with new development. The VA would completely shut the opposite half, and would shift veteran care to native VA inpatient and outpatient services.

Meanwhile, the VA proposes constructing VAMCs in new areas. The plan requires a net reduction of three VAMCs, bringing the whole from 171 to 168.

While the whole variety of outpatient factors of care would additionally lower under this plan, the VA states the relocation and enlargement of services and companies will improve veterans’ general entry to VA care.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough advised reporters final week that its suggestions are centered on offering veterans with trendy services that might enhance the standard of care they obtain.

“I define the entire project that the commission is designed around to be modernization. We are bound and determined to do right by our veterans, and that means upgrading our physical infrastructure. And so we will not be deterred from that,” McDonough mentioned.

But if the AIR Commission course of doesn’t transfer ahead, the MISSION Act nonetheless requires the VA to conduct four-year critiques of its real-estate wants in every of its regional health care markets.

McDonough mentioned the VA can be on the verge of beginning the subsequent quadrennial evaluation quickly.

The following senators joined the assertion  rejecting the AIR Commission course of:

  1.  Jon Tester (D-Mont.),
  2. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.),
  3. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.),
  4. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.),
  5. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.),
  6. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.),
  7. John Thune (R-S.D.),
  8. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio),
  9. Patty Murray (D-Wash.),
  10. Steve Daines (R-Mont.),
  11. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.),
  12. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)





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