VA Considers Closing Over 1100 Underused Facilities Nationwide
Jun 15, 2017
Northville, MI (Law Firm Newswire) June 15, 2017 – Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin announced that the agency is considering a plan to close more than 1,100 facilities across the country as it moves toward allowing a larger number of veterans to access private sector health care.
Shulkin told a House hearing that the department has identified 735 underused facilities. There are also 430 empty buildings, most of which were constructed around 90 years ago. The VA secretary told lawmakers that closing them would save the government around $25 million annually. However, he did not specify which locations would be shut down.
“It is understandable that aging buildings serve no purpose and are likely to cost considerable time, money and resources to replace,” said Jim Fausone, a Michigan veterans attorney. “However, the VA should be careful not to hastily close facilities that actually serve veterans. If they do decide to close such buildings, they should ensure veterans’ access to health care is not affected.”
Shulkin said the VA and Congress would work together to review buildings for possible closure. He also said the department was mulling the use of a process along the lines of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC. The Pentagon used BRAC in the past to determine which underutilized military bases should be closed.
However, the BRAC process has been controversial. It raised concerns among members of Congress about the negative financial impact of closing military bases in their districts. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska, a vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, cautioned Shulkin to avoid using “the term BRAC because it brings up a lot of bad memories.”
Fortenberry said Congress would work “constructively” with the VA to determine how their aging buildings could serve the community. For example, they could be used for landscape upkeep, security or firefighting.
According to The Associated Press (AP), internal VA data indicates around 57 percent of all VA facilities are over 50 years old. “We want to stop supporting our use of maintenance of buildings we don’t need, and we want to reinvest that in buildings we know have capital needs,” said Shulkin.
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