Fedweek

Legislation (HR-5674) approved by the House Veterans Affairs Committee would create for the VA a process similar to the base realignment and closure process used several times at DoD.

That is a response to years of complaints from VA–similar to those raised by DoD–that it is devoting money to under-used or outdated facilities could be better spent elsewhere, including to construct new facilities where the department lacks capacity to meet patient needs. A realignment and closings process at VA would have a similar potential to cause the transfer or loss of jobs as did the DoD base closing rounds, although also as at DoD, the process would be a long one: the review portion alone would last until early 2023.

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Under the bill, an “asset and infrastructure review commission” would be appointed, with input from Congress and veterans’ groups, to review recommendations from the VA. That commission would issue recommendations that if approved by the President would take effect unless Congress blocked them.

The language is part of a measure that also addresses policies for allowing veterans to receive outside the VA system under certain circumstances. The bill also would allow VA health care professionals to practice telemedicine regardless of the location of the provider or patient during the treatment regardless of state licensing laws.

Also before the committee is HR-5221, to authorize the Veterans Health Administration to begin the recruitment and hiring process for health care providers up to two years prior to the completion of required training, placing VHA on a hiring timeline that is competitive with the private sector. The bill also releases physicians from “non-compete agreements” for the purpose of serving in the VHA, and updates the minimum standard for VHA physicians to include the completion of a postgraduate medical residency.