At Oversight Hearing, Tester Urges Smart Investments in VA’s Infrastructure: ‘The need for action is clear’

Chairman continues his push to address major gaps in VA infrastructure, cut red tape, and increase oversight to better serve veterans

(U.S. Senate) – At a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee oversight hearing today, Chairman Jon Tester pushed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to make smart investments in its infrastructure projects to better serve veterans in Montana and across the country. He also stressed the need to bolster the Department’s internal capacity to deliver more facilities, cut red tape, and increase oversight of the agency’s construction project costs. 

“Infrastructure funding requested by Administrations for years has been relatively flat, with sporadic, one-off cash infusions from Congress,” said Tester. “As a result, VA estimates its unmet infrastructure needs total as much as $70.8 billion. The need for action is clear. But to date, we haven’t had a plan from VA on how to get there…We are here today to examine VA’s needs, how it is managing and delivering new facilities, and what Congress can do to help.”

The Senator went on to question VA’s Executive Director for the Office of Asset Enterprise Management Brett Simms regarding his Build, Utilize, Invest, Lease, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Actbipartisan legislation introduced by Tester to provide the Department with the necessary tools to facilitate facility construction, increase leasing of new medical facilities, and deliver quality care to all veterans.  

“Mr. Simms, VA has been waiting since 2017 for Congress to act on a list of leases to allow VA to build or refurbish a number of new clinics across the country,” said Tester. “The list of pending leases has now reached 21 waiting for action—across 13 states—impacting hundreds of thousands of veterans’ access to care across the country. Is it correct that VA is supportive of making changes to the Major Lease process, similar to what is in my BUILD for Veterans Act, and that making these changes would make a huge impact in delivering these clinics more quickly now and in the future?”

“Yes sir,” Mr. Simms replied.

Tester continued, “And would those changes, if we were to pass the BUILD for Veterans Act, have a significant impact on actually delivering these clinics for the communities that need them?”

“Yes sir, that’s correct.”

During the hearing, the Committee also heard from Government Accountability Office, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Kaiser Permanente witnesses on preparing for the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission process and other steps focused on the modernization of Veterans Health Administration facilities.

Tester’s full Q&A is available HERE.