Fedweek

Photo: Bruce VanLoon / Shutterstock.com Image: Bruce VanLoon/Shutterstock.com

The VA has released a restructuring plan that would result in the closing of several major facilities along with numerous smaller ones while opening others—with the stated intent to change both the agency’s physical footprint and its mission focus from those of the past to what it needs for the future.

The recommendation was made to the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission, which is to spend the rest of the year studying that proposal and conducting public hearings much like the former DoD base closings commissions operated. That group—whose members only recently were nominated—is to report on its own recommendations by next January 31, which will take effect unless blocked by Congress.

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In his statement accompanying the report, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the recommendations reflect the decline in demand for veterans care in some locations and the increase in others, as well as a shift from hospitalization to outpatient services such as those for specialty care.

“These recommendations will also help modernize VA’s infrastructure, replacing old, outdated, run-down facilities with state-of-the-art facilities designed with veterans and VA employees in mind . . . These investments would result in better working conditions for those employees, and better care for the veterans they serve,” he wrote.

Major features of the plan include closing three of the department’s 170 hospitals—in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Northampton, Mass.; and Chillicothe, Ohio—and closing some 170 clinics offering certain types of services while opening some 140 multi-specialty clinics plus varying numbers of community living centers and other types of facilities. There was no projected timeline for either the openings or the closings, which ultimately would result in a net gain of some 80 facilities.

However, the recommendations already are proving to be politically charged—one reason final decisions were steered to an outside commission—with objections from members of Congress in communities that would lose facilities as well as from federal employee unions representing VA workers.

The recommendations are here: https://www.va.gov/aircommissionreport

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