Manchin Holds Listening Session For West Virginia Veterans' Concerns
Charleston, WV – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) held a listening session for West Virginia Veterans to discuss the VA AIR Commission proposed changes to Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs) and voice their concerns with the potential impacts for care and services for Veterans. Photos and video can be found here and here.
“Today I held a listening session with Veterans from across West Virginia to hear their concerns about the VA’s deeply flawed recommendations to the AIR Commission that will impact rural states like West Virginia far more than other parts of America,” said Senator Manchin. “Three of our four VAMCs in West Virginia would be downsized, forcing our brave Veterans to travel farther for the same care they’ve received at our VAMCs for years. I will take what I heard from our Veterans today back to Washington to fight against any recommendations that would take away services from our Veterans. I will fight tooth and nail to prevent the loss of a single VA service or facility in West Virginia.”
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released its preliminary recommendations for the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission to consider which would significantly alter services provided to rural Veterans across West Virginia and the United States. If implemented, the recommendations would downsize three out of four of the VAMCs in West Virginia.
Timeline of Senator Manchin’s opposition to the AIR Act:
- May 22, 2018 – Senator Manchin moved to strike the AIR Act from the VA MISSION Act. While Senator Manchin supported the VA MISSION Act, he strongly opposed including the AIR Act that would reduce facilities and services for Veterans in West Virginia.
- March 27, 2019 – Senator Manchin introduced the Elimination of the VA Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission of 2019 Act to eliminate the commission and protect rural VA hospitals across West Virginia and the country.
- March 15, 2022 – Senator Manchin expressed concern that all those who have been nominated to serve on the AIR Commission are from heavily populated urban areas and urged the Administration to make certain rural perspectives are taken into consideration by the Commission.
- April 9, 2022 – Senator Manchin led a group of twelve bipartisan Senators in calling on President Biden to consult with Congress and local stakeholders on a state-by-state basis on the potential impacts the AIR Commission recommendations would have, especially on elderly Veterans.
- April 14, 2022 – Senator Manchin released a statement on his opposition to the VA recommendations to the AIR Commission for West Virginia’s VAMCs.
Background on the AIR Commission:
- In 2018, Congress passed the Asset and Infrastructure Review Act as part of the VA MISSION Act.
- Senators Rounds and Manchin introduced legislation in 2019 which would have eliminated the AIR Commission.
- The VA MISSION Act established a new process for the development, review, approval and implementation of a list of recommendations for the modernization and realignment of VHA medical facilities. The VA MISSION Act requires the VA Secretary to develop an initial list of recommendations, including the acquisition of new space, the modernization of existing space and the disposal of unneeded space. The Secretary was required to publish these recommendations in the Federal Register by January 31, 2022.
- The VA MISSION Act also established an AIR Commission, a panel comprised of nine members nominated by the president and approved by the Senate, which is meant to review the recommendations submitted by the VA Secretary.
- However, the panel does not yet exist as all of the nominees have yet to be assessed by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and voted on by full Senate.
- Once it is stood up and receives the department’s recommendations, the Commission will conduct its own hearings and investigations, make its own recommendations and send the recommendations to the White House.
- The AIR Commission is required to submit a final list of recommendations to the president by January 31, 2023.
- The President is to notify the Commission and Congress if he approves or disapproves the list by February 15, 2023. If disapproved, the Commission may revise the recommendations and submit a new list by March 15, 2023.
- The President has until March 30, 2023, to approve the Commission’s initial or revised recommendations in their entirety and submit them to Congress, or the modernization and realignment process terminates.
- If the President approves the recommendations, Congress has 45 days from the date of approval to terminate the process by enacting a joint resolution of disapproval. If Congress does not enact a joint resolution of disapproval, the VA is required to implement the recommendations.
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