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Thursday, December 08, 2022

Sen. Joe Manchin says commission tasked with decongesting veterans’ facilities

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks to reporters as he departs following a meeting in the Capitol Hill office of U.S. Se...

CHARLESton, WA ( Associated Press) — A group of U.S. senators have agreed to effectively end a commission tasked by the Department of Veterans Affairs to close down, downsizing and replace other critical medical facilities across the country, Sen. Joe Manchin said on Monday.

A West Virginia Democrat, a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the VA’s Assets and Infrastructure Review Commission has bipartisan support to avoid filling vacancies and eliminate the commission in the next National Defense Authorization Act.

The commission had recommended the closure or curtailment of many old facilities, a proposal which Manchin worried would drastically change the services provided to rural veterans across the country. But other groups have welcomed the commission’s work, saying it is necessary to modernize and improve the VA’s health offerings.

Manchin said in a statement that without the Senate approval of the All India Radio Commission and its nominees, no commission would be established and the process outlined by the 2018 VA Mission Act “will not proceed.” The act required Veterans Affairs to make recommendations for its medical facilities and health care delivery, either through facility expansion, relocation, closure or change in services.

For example, the recommendations would have shortened three of the four VA medical centers in West Virginia and closed four community-based outpatient clinics in New Mexico.

The group of senators said in the statement that the VA’s recommendations given to the commission do not reflect the nation’s obligations to uphold its veterans.

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The statement said the recommendations “will put veterans at a disadvantage in both rural and urban areas, which is why we are declaring that we do not support this process and will not proceed.” “Our continued push to invest in VA health infrastructure is not essential to our continued push to invest in VA health infrastructure, and together we remain dedicated to providing the department with the resources and tools needed to provide quality care to veterans in 21st century facilities. and need to continue to provide acquired services—now and in the future.”

In the letter Manchin was supposed to join Democratic Sense. John Tester of Montana, Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Patty Murray of Washington, and Republicans Shelley Moore Capito, Mike Rounds of West Virginia, and John Thune of South Dakota, Ohio of Rob Portman and Steve Dines of Montana.

The Veterans Group Concerned for America said the senators’ decision would only hurt veterans.

“It is disappointing to say that this is an understatement,” Darin Selnick, senior advisor to the group, said in a statement. “Simply put, this decision is short-sighted and will hurt veterans by becoming trapped in a broken and outdated system not designed to meet their needs. The AIR Commission was the best opportunity to modernize the VA health care system, Which meets the needs of the veterans it serves.”

The VA issued preliminary recommendations in March, prompting a bipartisan group of senators led by Manchin to initially ask President Joe Biden to ensure that rural approaches were considered by the AIR Commission.

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