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Public Statements

Tulsa VA Clinic

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Unknown

During my time serving in the Senate, I have fought against wasteful Washington spending wherever I have found it, including in my home state. No matter its zip code, poor spending choices rob future generations of opportunities and, in many instances, break promises to Americans today.

Nowhere is this more the case than in our efforts to provide health care for veterans. Record funding levels for veterans' health care --almost $57 billion last year - has not been matched by a similar increase in health care quality or better access.

Recently, I have raised concerns regarding a proposed project specifically impacting Tulsa area veterans. In the House passed veterans bill, which the Senate will soon take up, a provision was included for a large new veterans' clinic in Tulsa to replace two existing Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs).

I have no problem with the construction of a new facility, nor do I question the intent of those in Congress pursuing this project. However, after reviewing key data on the project, I have voiced concerns about the proposal. Unfortunately, there is little evidence it will markedly improve quality of health or access for Tulsa area veterans over what currently exists.

Consider the following facts:

The VA will pay $13.27 million to build out or modify a new facility, and then lease it at a cost of $5.6 million annually.[1]

The VA is the projecting the newly leased space to cost an estimated $40 per square foot, with a 4 percent annual increase.[2] By comparison, prominent Tulsa office and medical facility space can be found for $14-15 per square foot. [3]

The VA indicates that the twenty year lifecycle costs of the new facility will be $157 million more than the two current facilities.

The 140,000 net usable square foot clinic (another alternative considered would have increased this to 189,000 gross square feet) will be more than 2.5 times the size of the current clinics, despite an only 5 percent projected increase in VHA enrollees over the next twenty years.[4]

The VA has not disclosed current wait times or forecasted what impact the proposed expansion will have wait times for access to care.

If a plan emerges that serves substantially more Tulsa area veterans and verifiably offers greater access to high quality health care, I will be the first to support it. I will work to address the medical needs of Tulsa area veterans, including how best to replace the current facilities. Congress has plenty of time to act, as the current site has a five year option remaining. We can and we must use this time wisely.

Additionally, I am pleased the Senate will be debating a plan that will allow veterans to seek care outside of the VA system. While I am optimistic that we can chart a proper course for the Tulsa clinic, in the long run I believe veterans will be better served by making every hospital a VA hospital, and every clinic a VA clinic.

If the wait time debacle has taught us anything it is that the era of "trust us" governance by both Congress and the VA is over. Every dollar and every capital project in our home states must be directly tied to a specific and rigorous plan to improve access to the highest quality care available.

We owe it to veterans who have given so much to defend our freedoms to be good stewards of taxpayer money while ensuring they receive the best care possible.


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