A bipartisan bill (S-3089) newly introduced in the Senate seeks to better match the availability of VA facilities to its patient-care needs, an issue that has been the subject of numerous reports and proposals in recent years pointing to under-supply in some areas but over-supply in others.
“Too often, veterans—and the dedicated VA employees and medical providers who serve them—find VA facilities outdated or cramped for space.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 sponsor Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., ranking Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
The bill would expedite Congress’ approval process of VA medical facility leases; provide the department with more flexibility to lease unused VA property and facilities for veteran-focused services and operations; require that VA regularly collect the views of veterans and VA employees and use that information to plan for how to improve or build facilities; study vulnerability of existing facilities to extreme weather events and take steps to lessen those risks; and study space and other needs related to the VA’s electronic health records initiative.
The bill also would require each major VA facility employ staff responsible only for facility planning and management of construction projects.