House Targets VA Structure, Facilities

The House has passed HR-1066, to set the stage for a reorganization of the VA by requiring the department to report on its organizational structure, including recommendations “regarding the roles, responsibility, and accountability of elements and individuals of the VA.”

That report would have to take into account the results several prior studies, including an independent assessment conducted under the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014; any study or report by the Commission on Care established by that law; and other relevant studies or reports, including a 2015 report of a task force on improving effectiveness of VA health care.

The VA report also would have to similarly address the roles of each component of the department and of their leaders and make recommendations for needed changes in law.

Separate Bill Presages Consolidations, Closings

Meanwhile, leaders of the House Veterans Affairs Committee have sponsored HR-4242 to create a nine-member Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission made up of veterans, subject matter experts, and representatives from veterans service organizations to review the department’s facilities and recommend consolidations and closings.

The measure is a response to a series of hearings and reports on the department’s difficulties in shedding excess capacity that is expensive to maintain and that draws money from needed improvements and expansions elsewhere.

Under the plan, the VA would propose criteria to be used in evaluating facilities; there would be a public comment period; after the standards are finalized, the VA would have until January 31, 2022 to release its recommendations, subject to review and changes by the commission; and if the White House consents to the panel’s recommendations they would then be forwarded to Congress for any needed changes in law.