(U.S. Senate) – As part of his continued push to strengthen veterans’ health care and benefits, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester is introducing the Build, Utilize, Invest, Learn, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act of 2022—legislation to modernize the delivery of medical facilities and other infrastructure projects at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“When it comes to delivering new hospitals, clinics, cemeteries, benefits offices, and other facilities for veterans and the employees that serve them, we’ve got to set VA up for success,” said Chairman Tester. “The BUILD for Veterans Act pushes VA to modernize and manage its current and future infrastructure needs through commonsense provisions that’ll save taxpayer dollars in the process. This bill is critical to making sure VA is well-positioned to get new facilities off the ground while maintaining existing ones, and I’ll be fighting tooth and nail to get it across the finish line as quickly as possible.”
Currently, VA lacks a clear roadmap, the internal capacity, and consistent funding to initiate the building or remodeling of facilities identified by the Department. Tester’s BUILD for Veterans Act would strengthen the Department’s internal capacity to initiate these projects to better meet the need of current and future veterans—including women veterans, veterans in need of long-term care services, and veterans with spinal cord injuries and diseases.
Among its many provisions, the BUILD for Veterans Act would bolster and invest in VA’s infrastructure by requiring the Department to:
- Develop relevant plans, metrics, infrastructure workforce hiring strategies, year-by-year budgets and oversight mechanisms to overhaul its capacity to accomplish new facility projects and provide Congress with its plans and performance data for enhanced accountability.
- Implement a more concrete schedule to eliminate or repurpose unused and vacant buildings such as old maintenance sheds or warehouses to safeguard taxpayer dollars.
- Examine infrastructure budgeting strategies, identify if reforms are required, and implement industry best practices.
- Provide annual budget requirements over a 10-year period so that Congress and VA can set about on the task of fully modernizing VA’s infrastructure in a strategic, comprehensive approach.
Tester’s new legislation builds off of historic infrastructure investments in his Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act—bipartisan legislation to deliver toxic-exposed veterans their earned health care and benefits. Specifically, the PACT Act invests in VA’s infrastructure workforce through new recruitment and retention incentives, provides $5.5 billion in funding for 31 new facilities in 19 states—and for additional facilities in the future—and delivers additional tools to build clinics more efficiently. It also allows VA to partner more easily with the Department of Defense and universities on health facilities while also including good government provisions allowing VA to lease unused building and property to third parties to serve veterans while saving taxpayer funds.
Veterans Service Organizations threw their support behind the Senator’s new legislation:
“With the Asset and Infrastructure Review process effectively ended, Congress must take the lead in strengthening VA’s health care infrastructure, and Sen. Tester’s BUILD for Veterans Act is a critical first step toward that goal,” said Disabled American Veterans Washington Headquarters Executive Director Randy Reese. “The legislation would strengthen VA’s ability to construct, manage and maintain hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities across the country. DAV strongly supports the BUILD for Veterans Act and commends Sen. Tester for his continued leadership and commitment to the men and women who served, particularly those injured, ill or disabled from their service.”
“Veterans expect that the VA will welcome them with facilities that can help deliver the care that they need,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Executive Vice President Tom Porter. “The BUILD for Veterans Act provides badly needed reforms to enable the VA to modernize facilities and strengthen oversight and management of the agency's capital asset program and project execution. Sen. Tester should be commended for taking the significant step forward for veterans' healthcare needs with this important bill.”
“Ensuring VA has state-of-the-art facilities to support the medical and mental healthcare needs of veterans is a top priority of The American Legion,” said National Commander of The American Legion Paul E. Dillard. “Investing in and revitalizing the aging VA infrastructure is vital to the overall success of the VA healthcare system. We must ensure that VA is properly resourced and structured to manage the infrastructure of the largest integrated healthcare network in the nation. By improving VA capital asset programs and increasing congressional oversight, the BUILD for Veterans Act will help establish a foundation for VA’s infrastructure modernization efforts.”
“The VFW fully supports the BUILD for Veterans Act which would improve VA’s facilities around the country,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Legislative Director Pat Murray. “VA infrastructure has been underprioritized for far too long and left without a plan for addressing many of the outdated buildings or the backlog of work. The BUILD for Veterans Act will require VA to develop and implement plans, to remedy this problem that has plagued VA for years. We are grateful for Senator Tester’s efforts to deliver infrastructure solutions to VA and for bringing attention to this often-overlooked problem.”
“VA’s infrastructure processes must be modernized and now is the time to come up with new ways for the department to identify, prioritize, and fund its construction needs,” said Paralyzed Veterans of America's Associate Executive Director for Government Relations Heather Ansley. “The BUILD for Veterans Act provides a comprehensive approach to help address problems with VA’s internal processes that have hindered its ability to meet the ever-growing demand for health care and benefits by veterans.”
Text of the BUILD for Veterans Act can be found HERE.
A one-pager on the bill can be found HERE.