May 22, 2018

In Order to Protect Veterans Care in West Virginia, Manchin Moves to Remove AIR Act from VA MISSION Act

While Manchin supports the VA Mission Act, one provision in the bill - the AIR Act - would begin an asset review that could lead to the closure of VA facilities in West Virginia - after a similar asset review in the early 2000s, the commission recommended closing the acute inpatient hospital beds at the Beckley VA Medical Center

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) moved to strike the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Act from the VA MISSION Act. While Senator Manchin will support the VA MISSION Act because it fixes non-VA care and expands the Caregivers program to Veterans of all eras, he strongly opposes the House Republicans’ decision to include the AIR Act that will reduce facilities in West Virginia and services for West Virginia Veterans.

“I have spent my career fighting to make sure Veterans can get the care they have earned as soon as they need it. I support the MISSION Act because it improves VA’s community care program, makes it easier for VA to hire quality healthcare professionals, and it expands the Caregiver Program to veterans of all eras. Unfortunately, as is often the case in Washington, in order to get all the things our Veterans need in this bill, we have to accept an asset and infrastructure review that will shutter VA facilities across rural America in places like West Virginia.

“In the early 2000s, the last time there was an asset review, the CARES Commission recommended closing the acute inpatient hospital beds and contracting for acute care in the community for the Beckley VA Medical Center. Fortunately, that decision was overridden by then Secretary Principi. Veterans living in a rural area deserve the same quality and access of care that they would receive in an urban area. Today I filed a bill that is identical to the VA MISSION Act in every way except that it does not include that asset and infrastructure review that was tucked in after the bill cleared the Senate Veterans Committee. If the AIR Act provision does become law, I will do everything in my power as a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, including calling for hearings and possibly holding nominations to prevent closures in West Virginia. I hope my colleagues will support my version of the bill,” Senator Manchin said.

If enacted, the Air Act would create a 9-member, Senate-confirmed Commission tasked with conducting a comprehensive review of VA facilities and identifying where investments should be made and where facilities should be consolidated, realigned, exchanged, outleased, replaced, sold or disposed. The Commission, in consult with the VA and other stakeholders, would meet during calendar years 2022 and 2023 and report on its findings to the President and Congress. Recommendations could include closing, realigning or building facilities, along with changing functions or staff levels. Under this provision, VA would be authorized to close or realign VA medical facilities without regard to any other legislation restricting them from doing so.