U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow joined 13 of their colleagues in sending a bipartisan letter urging the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to authorize leases for 18 major medical facilities across 12 states, including a new expanded outpatient facility in Ann Arbor, MI, that have been awaiting congressional authorization for over a year. An additional six leases for facilities, including a new outpatient clinic in Pontiac, MI, must be authorized this year. The two new Michigan facilities will expand services and reduce congestion and wait times for Michigan veterans seeking VA health care.
The letter was also signed by Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
Chairman Isakson and Ranking Member Blumenthal:
We urge you to act to authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) major medical facility leases currently pending before Congress, and for which funding has been included in the Senate Committee-passed fiscal year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. These lease authorizations are needed to enable the VA to deliver care and services to veterans across the United States. Together, the 18 VA facilities with authorizations pending before Congress deliver care to our veterans.
Authorization of these leases has been hampered by a scorekeeping issue. Under current law, the VA must receive specific legislative authorization to lease medical facilities with average annual rental payments in excess of $1 million. In 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) began scoring the total obligations for the life of a VA major medical lease at the time of authorization, rather than annually. As such, legislation authorizing VA major medical leases receives much larger direct spending scores even though actual spending would not increase and the leases are subject to appropriations.
This scoring change has stymied efforts to authorize any VA major medical facility leases. Currently, 18 leases in 12 states from fiscal years 2015 and 2016 have been pending authorization in Congress for more than one year:
- Ann Arbor, MI – Outpatient Clinic
- Birmingham, AL – Outpatient Mental Health Clinic
- Birmingham, AL – Outpatient Specialty Clinic
- Boston, MA – Research
- Charleston, SC – Research
- Daytona Beach, FL – Outpatient Clinic
- Denver, CO – Chief Business Office Purchased Care
- Gainesville, FL – Outpatient Clinic
- Hampton Roads, VA – Outpatient Clinic
- Mission Bay, CA – Research
- Missoula, MT – Outpatient Clinic
- Northern Colorado, CO – Outpatient Clinic
- Ocala, FL – Outpatient Clinic
- Oxnard, CA – Outpatient Clinic
- Pike County, GA – Outpatient Clinic
- Portland, ME – Outpatient Clinic
- Raleigh, NC – Outpatient Clinic
- Santa Rosa, CA – Outpatient Clinic
Additionally, there are major medical facility leases in New York, Texas, and Indiana that require authorization. As such, we ask that you act swiftly to authorize these pending leases until a more permanent solution to the scorekeeping issue can be found. Inaction on this issue hampers the ability of veterans in our states to access timely and quality care from the VA. We thank you for your continued dedication to our nation’s veterans and their families, and look forward to working with you on this critical issue.