Hawley, Tester Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Ensure VA Infrastructure Better Serves Veterans

Thursday, January 09, 2020

U.S. Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced a bipartisan bill to ensure U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) infrastructure is better suited to provide timely and quality health care to veterans across the country.

The Build, Utilize, Invest, Lease, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act would cut red tape, expedite Congress’ approval process of VA medical leases and provide the Department with more flexibility to lease unused VA property and facilities for veteran-focused services and operations. Among the bill’s many provisions, it would also increase accountability of taxpayer dollars by requiring VA to employ qualified staff in each state, whose sole responsibility would be facility planning and management of all VA construction projects.

Senator Hawley said, “Gridlock in Congress has too often delayed the VA from securing the facilities it needs to provide critical services to our veterans. This bill streamlines the leasing approval process to ensure Missouri veterans can get the care they need, when they need it.”

Senator Tester said, “Too often, veterans–and the dedicated VA employees and medical providers who serve them—find VA facilities outdated or cramped for space. And unfortunately, the process for updating or replacing that space is inundated with red tape. Our bipartisan bill streamlines the process for how Congress approves VA leased space for new facilities in Montana and across the country, and provides VA with more flexibility to utilize unused VA property to benefit veterans. Most importantly, it ensures that VA has the necessary tools, facilities, and staff to provide both quality care to veterans and accountability to taxpayers.”

This bill ensures the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has the facilities it needs to provide high-quality care to Missouri’s veterans:

  • Accelerates delivery of new medical facilities to Missouri’s veterans by streamlining the Congressional approval process for major medical leases.
  • Allows to VA to lease unused land or property to third parties providing housing, services, and other benefits to Missouri’s veteran community.
  • Requires every VA medical facility to have dedicated staff for managing construction projects, in order to ensure those projects are done in a timely and responsible manner.
  • Makes sure the VA takes Missouri’s veterans’ perspectives into account when planning new construction projects in Missouri.  

This legislation is supported by Veterans Service Organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Disabled American Veterans (DAV), and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA).

“VA’s infrastructure backlog and unused building lists keep growing by the day,” said Pat Murray, Deputy Director of VFW’s National Legislative Service. “Senators Tester and Hawley’s BUILD for Veterans Act would begin to eliminate these expanding lists and make real changes that would benefit veterans and VA. The VFW thanks Senators Tester and Hawley for their dedication to streamlining the VA infrastructure process by proper future planning, and keeping the best interests of veterans in mind in all future VA infrastructure projects.”

“Veterans who turn to the VA to meet their health care needs should expect that its facilities have been designed and equipped to provide state-of-the-art care,” said Randy Reese, DAV Washington Executive Director. “However, statutory barriers and VA’s own internal processes have hindered the department’s ability to quickly deliver modern health care facilities for America’s veterans. The BUILD for Veterans Act will help cut the red tape involved in modernizing VA’s health care facilities and help ensure veterans receive timelier, high-quality health care. DAV applauds Senators Tester and Hawley for introducing this important legislation.”

“For years, VA’s construction budgets have been significantly underfunded and the department’s internal processes have hindered its ability to meet the ever-growing demand for health care and benefits by veterans,” said Heather Ansley, PVA Associate Executive Director Government Relations. “Senators Tester and Hawley’s BUILD for Veterans Act offers a comprehensive approach that addresses both problems in the most veteran-centric and cost effective way.”