May 25, 2022

Manchin Holds Second Tele-Town Hall with West Virginia Veterans

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) held a second tele-town hall 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.

Senator Manchin also reintroduced his bipartisan Elimination of the VA Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission Act yesterday, which would eliminate the AIR Commission.

“Today I hosted hundreds of Veterans from across West Virginia to hear their concerns about the VA’s deeply flawed recommendations to the AIR Commission,” said Senator Manchin. “The VA’s recommendations to the AIR Commission are skewed against rural states like West Virginia, which would see a reduction in services at three of our four VAMCs, forcing our brave Veterans to travel farther for the same care they’ve received close to home for years. I will continue fighting tooth and nail to prevent the loss of a single VA service or facility in West Virginia, which is why I reintroduced the bipartisan Elimination of the VA AIR Commission Act yesterday to dissolve the commission and ensure our Veterans continue to receive the care they earned and deserve.”

“As you well know, I was in the VA for 15 days, just recently, I certainly couldn’t have received more perfect care if I’d have been able to afford it. And they took such good care of me. And the doctors were very considerate, very concerned, and very passionate about what they were doing. So we have got to kill this thing somehow,” said Hershel “Woody” Williams, our nation’s last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient.

“I was briefed on the AIR recommendations back in March. At that time, I recognized the recommendations for what they were, a reduction in services, a reduction in access to healthcare, a reduction in access to Mental Healthcare for our Veteran population in West Virginia. Since then, I have been working closely with the Governor’s office, our State Legislature, Senators Manchin and Capito, and our Congressional delegation to bring awareness throughout the state, making sure our Veterans are aware of the impact these recommendations will have should they come to fruition. We are united in saying that the AIR Commission must be eliminated now,” said Ted Diaz, West Virginia Secretary of Veterans Assistance.

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.

Senator Manchin’s recent efforts to address this issue can be found here.

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.