Friday, December 09, 2022

Sen. Joe Manchin says the commission tasked with downsizing veteran facilities needs to be scrapped

CHARLESTON, W.Va. ( Associated Press) – A group of U.S. senators has agreed to effectively dismantle a commission commissioned by the Department of Veterans Affairs to effect closures, downsizing and other significant changes to medical facilities nationwide, Sen said. Joe Manchin said Monday.

The West Virginia Democrat, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said there is bipartisan support to prevent vacancies on the VA’s Assets and Infrastructure Review Commission and to terminate the commission in the next National Defense Authorization Act.

The commission recommended the closure or downsizing of several older facilities, a proposal that would worry Manchin that services provided to rural veterans across the country would change significantly. But other groups welcomed the commission’s work, saying it needed to modernize and improve the VA’s health services.

Manchin said in a statement that without Senate approval from the AIR commission and its nominees, no commission would be set up and the process set forth by the 2018 VA Mission Act “would not move forward.” The law required Veterans Affairs to make recommendations for its medical facilities and healthcare delivery, whether through facility expansions, relocations, closures or changes in services.

For example, the recommendations would have reduced three of four VA medical centers in West Virginia and would have closed four community-based outpatient clinics in New Mexico.

The group of senators said in the statement that the VA’s recommendations given to the commission did not reflect compliance with the country’s obligations to its veterans.

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The recommendations will harm veterans “in both rural and urban areas, and therefore we announce that this process does not have our support and will not move forward,” the statement said. “The Commission is not required for our continued pursuit of investing in VA health infrastructure, and together we remain committed to providing the department with the resources and tools it needs to continue to provide quality care and well-deserved services. to Veterans in 21st Century Facilities — now and into the future. ”

The Democratic Sens. Jon Tester of Montana, Martin Henrich and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Patty Murray of Washington, and Republican Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mike joined Manchin. Rounds and John Thune of South Dakota, Rob Portman of Ohio and Steve Daines of Montana.

The group Concerned Veterans for America said the senators’ decision would only harm veterans.

“To say it’s disappointing is an understatement,” Darin Selnick, the group’s senior adviser, said in a statement. “Simply put, this decision is short-sighted and will hurt veterans by keeping them trapped in a broken and outdated system that is not built to meet their needs. The AIR Commission was the best opportunity to modernize the VA healthcare system to meet the needs of the veterans who serve it. ”

The VA released preliminary recommendations in March, asking a two-party group of senators led by Manchin to initially ask President Joe Biden to make sure rural perspectives are considered by the AIR commission.

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