Virginia congressmen, senators applaud inclusion of medical leases in veterans legislation
U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) and Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rob Wittman (R-VA), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) and Scott Taylor (R-VA) welcomed today’s announcement that Congress is making progress to finally move forward on 28 leases for Department of Veterans Affairs (V-A) major medical facilities, including much-needed outpatient clinics in Fredericksburg and Hampton Roads.
A bipartisan agreement has been reached among the leaders of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees on legislation to provide additional funding for the Veterans Choice Program, which allows certain veterans to seek medical care outside of the V-A system. Current funding for that program is expected to run out in early August, so the issue must be addressed before Congress adjourns for the summer. Legislative text was released and approved by the House Rules Committee today that also includes authorization for the medical leases. The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill tomorrow, with the Senate following suit before the August recess.
“While the V-A has made some progress in recent years, many veterans in Virginia and across the country are still waiting too long for their medical care. They deserve better,” said the Members of Congress. “After years of delays, we’re glad to finally see a recognition that approving these outpatient centers in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg is an important part of the solution when it comes to reducing wait times and improving access to care. These facilities allow veterans to receive care closer to home, without the stress and difficulty of traveling to larger V-A medical centers, and relieve some of the strain on what are often overburdened, aging facilities. We will be pushing our colleagues in both chambers to approve these leases without further delay.”
Under law, the Department of Veterans Affairs (V-A) must receive specific legislative authorization to lease medical facilities with average annual rental payments in excess of $1 million. However, since 2014 Congress has failed to authorize any V-A major medical facility leases, hampering the ability of the V-A to provide much-needed health care and services to veterans around the country.
Among those leases is a 155,000 square foot outpatient facility in Hampton Roads, Va., which has one of the fastest-growing veterans populations in the country. From 2012 to 2016, patient visits in Hampton’s service area increased by 21.4 percent, while the national average across the V-A system was 7.3 percent.
The bill will also authorize $45 million for an outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg, Va., to help alleviate some of the patient load at the McGuire V-A Medical Center and allow veterans who live north of Richmond to seek care closer to home.
For more than a year, Sen. Warner has been spearheading a bipartisan effort in Congress to approve the overdue medical leases. In September 2016, he led a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Providing Veterans Overdue Care Act to authorize leases for 24 Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities in 15 states, most of which had already been waiting for congressional approval for more than a year. At the beginning of the new Congress in January 2017, Sen. Warner teamed up with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to reintroduce the legislation.
Because Congress failed to act, the list of leases waiting for congressional authorization has grown to 28 facilities in 17 states:
- Outpatient clinic, Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Outpatient mental health clinic, Birmingham, Alabama
- Research space, Boston, Massachusetts
- Research space, Charleston, South Carolina
- Outpatient clinic, Corpus Christi, Texas
- Outpatient clinic, Daytona Beach, Florida
- Office space, Denver, Colorado
- Outpatient clinic, Fredericksburg, Virginia
- Outpatient clinic, Gainesville, Florida
- Outpatient mental health clinic, Gainesville, Florida
- Outpatient clinic, Hampton Roads, Virginia
- Outpatient clinic, Indianapolis, Indiana
- Outpatient clinic, Jacksonville, Florida
- Outpatient clinic, Missoula, Montana
- Outpatient mental health clinic, Northern Colorado, Colorado
- Outpatient clinic, Ocala, Florida
- Outpatient clinic, Oxnard, California
- Outpatient clinic, Pike County, Georgia
- Outpatient clinic, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Outpatient clinic, Portland, Maine
- Outpatient clinic, Raleigh, North Carolina
- Outpatient clinic, phase II, Rochester, New York
- Research space, San Diego, California
- Outpatient clinic, Santa Rosa, California
- Mental health clinic, Tampa, Florida
- Outpatient clinic, Lakeland, Tampa, Florida
- Outpatient clinic, Terre Haute, Indiana
- Outpatient clinic, Rapid City, South Dakota