Tester, Hawley Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Ensure VA Infrastructure Better Serves Veterans
Bipartisan BUILD for Veterans Act would cut red tape, provide tools to facilitate construction, leasing and refurbishing of new VA medical facilities, delivering modern and quality care for veterans across the country
(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a bipartisan bill to ensure U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) infrastructure is better suited to provide timely and quality health care to veterans across the country.
The Build, Utilize, Invest, Lease, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act of 2019 would cut red tape, expedite Congress’ approval process of VA medical leases and provide the Department with more flexibility to lease unused VA property and facilities for veteran-focused services and operations. Among the bill’s many provisions, it would also increase accountability of taxpayer dollars by requiring VA to employ qualified staff in each state, whose sole responsibility would be facility planning and management of all VA construction projects.
“Too often, veterans—and the dedicated VA employees and medical providers who serve them—find VA facilities outdated or cramped for space. And unfortunately, the process for updating or replacing that space is inundated with red tape,” said Senator Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Our bipartisan bill streamlines the process for how Congress approves VA leased space for new facilities in Montana and across the country, and provides VA with more flexibility to utilize unused VA property to benefit veterans. Most importantly, it ensures that VA has the necessary tools, facilities, and staff to provide both quality care to veterans and accountability to taxpayers.”
“Gridlock in Congress has too often delayed the VA from securing the facilities it needs to provide critical services to our veterans,” said Senator Hawley. “This bill streamlines the leasing approval process to ensure Missouri veterans can get the care they need, when they need it.”
This bill includes the following provisions:
· Shortens the process Congress uses to approve VA medical leases so that new major VA lease facilities open more quickly, allowing veterans to be served in more modern facilities and improve access to health care.
· Expands VA’s authority to lease unused VA property or land to third parties to help serve veterans, such as community resource centers, non-profit service providers, community/town centers for gatherings, and veteran assistance centers.
· Ensures each major VA medical facility has dedicated staff to plan for and effectively deliver construction projects.
· Requires that VA regularly collect the views of veterans and VA employees, and use that information to plan for how to improve or build new local VA infrastructure to serve veterans.
· Requires VA to conduct a review of its facilities to understand those that may be at risk to extreme weather events, such as fires or flooding, and report to Congress on efforts VA will take to mitigate these issues now and in the future.
· Requires VA to review all the relevant facilities across the country to understand VA’s space and other infrastructure needs related to VA’s deployment of its new electronic health record and report to Congress on the cost and timeline to complete all the needed work so VA facilities are sufficiently prepared.
This legislation is supported by Veterans Service Organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).
“VA’s infrastructure backlog and unused building lists keep growing by the day,” said Pat Murray, Deputy Director of VFW’s National Legislative Service. “Senators Tester and Hawley’s BUILD for Veterans Act would begin to eliminate these expanding lists and make real changes that would benefit veterans and VA. The VFW thanks Senators Tester and Hawley for their dedication to streamlining the VA infrastructure process by proper future planning, and keeping the best interests of veterans in mind in all future VA infrastructure projects.”
“Veterans who turn to the VA to meet their health care needs should expect that its facilities have been designed and equipped to provide state-of-the-art care,” said Randy Reese, DAV Washington Executive Director. “However, statutory barriers and VA’s own internal processes have hindered the department’s ability to quickly deliver modern health care facilities for America’s veterans. The BUILD for Veterans Act will help cut the red tape involved in modernizing VA’s health care facilities and help ensure veterans receive timelier, high-quality health care. DAV applauds Senators Tester and Hawley for introducing this important legislation.”
"For years, VA's construction budgets have been significantly underfunded and the department’s internal processes have hindered its ability to meet the ever-growing demand for health care and benefits by veterans,” said Heather Ansley, PVA Associate Executive Director of Government Relations. “Senators Tester and Hawley’s BUILD for Veterans Act offers a comprehensive approach that addresses both problems in the most veteran-centric and cost effective way."