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Public Statements

Hearing of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee - Assessing VA's Capital Investment Options to Provide Veterans' Care

Hearing

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

GOOD MORNING, AND WELCOME TO TODAY'S FULL COMMITTEE HEARING, "ASSESSING VA'S CAPITAL INVESTMENT OPTIONS TO PROVIDE VETERANS' CARE."

AS TODAY IS NATIONAL POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER AWARENESS DAY, I WOULD LIKE TO TAKE A BRIEF MOMENT TO ADDRESS THOSE VETERANS EXPERIENCING POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS WHO MAY BE IN ATTENDANCE OR LISTENING.

HOPE AND HEALING ARE POSSIBLE, AND I ENCOURAGE YOU AND ALL THOSE SUFFERING TO REACH OUT FOR HELP.

YOU CAN CALL 1-800-273-TALK (8255) AND PRESS ONE FOR VETERANS.

NOW, TURNING OUR ATTENTION TO WHAT WE ARE GATHERED HERE TODAY TO DISCUSS - THE POTENTIAL FOR A NEW PARADIGM OF CARE FOR OUR VETERANS THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS (VA'S) CAPITAL INVESTMENT PROGRAMS.

AS MANY OF YOU KNOW, WHEN THIS COMMITTEE WAS CONSIDERING LEGISLATION TO AUTHORIZE VA'S MAJOR MEDICAL FACILITY PROJECTS AND LEASES LAST YEAR, THE CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE (C-B-O) RAISED CONCERNS ABOUT HOW TO PROPERLY ACCOUNT FOR VA'S LEASE AUTHORIZATIONS.
C-B-O, AFTER SOLICITING AND RECEIVING ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM VA ABOUT THE LEASE CONTRACTS, DETERMINED THAT SUCH LEASES SHOULD BE CLASSIFIED AS "CAPITAL LEASES" RATHER THAN "OPERATING LEASES," AS C-B-O HAD DONE IN THE PAST.

THIS NEW SCORING CRITERIA HAS RESULTED IN NEW CHALLENGES TO OUR ABILITY TO AUTHORIZE VA'S LEASES AS, UNDER CBO'S NEW SCORING CONSTRUCT, THEY NOW CONSTITUTE SIGNIFICANT DIRECT SPENDING COSTS THAT MUST BE OFFSET UNDER STATUTORY PAYGO REQUIREMENTS AND HOUSE AND SENATE BUDGET RULES.

FOR THE TWENTY-SEVEN PENDING LEASES THAT MEANS FINDING MORE THAN TWO POINT THREE BILLION DOLLARS IN UP-FRONT SAVINGS FROM OTHER GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS.

THIS ISSUE IS NOT ONE OF POLITICS OR PARTY NOR IS IT NOT ONE THAT PITS ONE BODY OF CONGRESS OR ONE BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT AGAINST ANOTHER.

RATHER, THIS IS AN ISSUE THAT ALL OF US WHO ARE TASKED WITH PROVIDING HIGH-QUALITY CARE AND SERVICES FOR OUR VETERANS ARE FACING TOGETHER.

AND, IT IS ONE THAT WILL TAKE OUR COLLECTIVE EFFORT TO RESOLVE.

VA HAS PROPOSED TWENTY-SEVEN MAJOR MEDICAL FACILITY LEASES - MOST OF THEM FOR COMMUNITY-BASED OUTPATIENT CLINICS - IN THE CURRENT BUDGET.

OF THESE, TWENTY-ONE ARE EXPANSIONS OR CONSOLIDATIONS OF EXISTING LEASED FACILITIES AND SIX ARE NEW LEASES.
LET ME BE CLEAR -- THE NEEDS OF OUR VETERANS IN THOSE AREAS ARE GOING TO BE MET, BUT HOW THOSE NEEDS WILL BE MET IN LIGHT OF CBO'S RECLASSIFICATION OF VA'S LEASE AUTHORIZATION REQUESTS IS WHAT WE WILL DISCUSS TODAY.

INFORMATION VA HAS CIRCULATED TO MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE PENDING LEASE REQUESTS INCLUDES A STATEMENT THAT, "UNTIL LAST YEAR, ENACTMENT OF THESE LEASES HAS BEEN A FAIRLY ROUTINE ANNUAL EXERCISE."

I DO NOT TAKE THAT AS A COMPLIMENT AND NEITHER SHOULD THE DEPARTMENT.

EXPENDING OUR HARD-WORKING TAXPAYERS' DOLLARS ON AUTHORIZING COSTLY CAPITAL INVESTMENT PROJECTS SHOULD NEVER BE A MATTER OF ROUTINE.

RATHER, IT SHOULD BE A RESPONSIBILITY THAT IS TAKEN SERIOUSLY, EVALUATED CAREFULLY, AND SCRUTINIZED CONSTANTLY TO ENSURE THAT THE CAPITAL INVESTMENTS WE ARE UNDERTAKING ARE EXPANDING OUR VETERANS' ACCESS TO CARE AND NOT JUST EXPANDING VA'S BUREAUCRATIC REACH.

LAST YEAR, I COMMITTED TO WORKING CLOSELY WITH VA, C-B-O, AND OUR COLLEAGUES IN THE SENATE TO FIND A WAY FORWARD FOR VA'S MAJOR MEDICAL FACILITY LEASE PROGRAM TO PROVIDE HIGH-QUALITY CARE AND SERVICES FOR OUR VETERANS.
THAT COMMITMENT REMAINS TODAY.

HOWEVER, WE CAN NO LONGER AFFORD TO INVEST OUR TIME ARGUING ABOUT THE MERITS OF C-B-O'S SCORING DETERMINATIONS.

THAT DOES NOT GET OUR VETERANS CLOSER TO THE CARE THEY NEED, WHICH IS THE GOAL WE ALL SHARE AND MUST ACHIEVE.

ABSENT A WAY FORWARD TO EITHER ADHERE TO C-B-O'S RULING AND PAY FOR THESE LEASES OR COLLECTIVELY DECIDE TO WAIVE OUR BUDGET RULES, WE MUST TAKE A HARD LOOK OUTSIDE THE BOX TO ASSESS OUR OPTIONS FOR DEVELOPING THESE PROJECTS.

THOSE OPTIONS INCLUDE NEW CONSTRUCTS FOR PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS, JOINT COLLABORATIONS, AND OTHER AVENUES OF CARE.

THAT IS WHAT I LOOK FORWARD TO DISCUSSING HERE TODAY.


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