IBVSOs: Stand down VA Asset and Infrastructure Review process

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The Independent Budget Veterans Service Organizations have called for the stand down of the VA's Asset and Infrastructure Review process in a joint statement. Photo credit CENTERCOVER

A group of Veterans Service Organizations has called for the “stand down” of the Department of Veterans Affairs Asset and Infrastructure Review Process.

In a joint statement released Thursday, the Independent Budget Veterans Service Organizations (IBVSOs) – Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars – said they recognize the critical importance of VA’s infrastructure in ensuring veterans receive needed care and believe it has been underprioritized for years.

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“Over the past several years, we have testified numerous times about our concerns with the AIR process, particularly VA’s market assessments, and the need for rigorous oversight. In order for it to succeed, there needed to be complete buy-in and full transparency among all stakeholders. This did not happen,” the statement, released on June 30, continues.

The call came after a bipartisan group of senators announced their opposition on June 27 to the Asset and Infrastructure Commission process, signifying an end to the commission and halting the VA’s plans to close 174 of its facilities nationwide. Half of the medical centers recommended for closure by the VA would be replaced by new construction under the plan.

The IBVSOs called the announcement that the AIR Commission will not move forward as intended disheartening, but not unexpected.

“The process was flawed from the beginning, in part due to a global pandemic, and did not have the necessary support from Congress or the Administration,” they said. “For these reasons, and others, the IBVSOs believe the best course of action is to stand down the process rather than proceed with a half-measured attempt at a major overhaul of VA’s infrastructure.”

The wide-ranging MISSION ACT mandated the VA to research, develop and publish a list of recommendations that would modernize its medical facilities and health care delivery methods. It also set up the Asset and Infrastructure Review process and independent AIR Commission.

The legislation calls for those recommendations to be reviewed by the commission, which would then report its findings to the president. The Senate has yet to act on any of President Joe Biden’s nine nominees to serve on the commission.

Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) released the joint statement, which signifies the end of the AIR Commission.

“While the AIR process appears over, it shined much-needed light on the urgent need to prioritize VA facilities.” the IBVSOs said. “This reenergized conversation cannot be allowed to crumble apart, like too many of the VA buildings this Commission was meant to address.”

Biden has until Feb. 15, 2023, to approve the commissions' final recommendations and if he doesn’t approve those recommendations by March 30, 2023, the process ends.

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.