Sep 30 2022
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sponsored the Build, Utilize, Invest, Learn, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act of 2022 – legislation to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to carry out key infrastructure projects, including medical facilities, in order to better care for veterans across the country. Virginia has one of the country’s largest and fastest-growing concentrations of veterans, resulting in increased demand for the services and benefits provided by the VA.
“I have been working for years to ensure that our nation’s veterans receive the high-quality medical care they deserve,” said Sen. Warner, who successfully spearheaded congressional efforts to approve new VA healthcare projects across the country, including outpatient clinics in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg. “Unfortunately, as a country, we’ve struggled to keep up with the needs of veterans seeking care and support through the VA, due in part to processes that are just too slow and too bureaucratic, leading to years of unnecessary delays in opening and remodeling needed hospitals, clinics, and benefits offices. This legislation will push the VA to modernize and improve its capacity to manage current and future infrastructure projects.”
Specifically, the BUILD for Veterans Act would bolster and invest in VA infrastructure by requiring the Department to:
- Develop relevant plans, metrics, infrastructure workforce hiring strategies, year-by-year budgets and oversight mechanisms to overhaul its capacity to accomplish new facility projects and provide Congress with its plans and performance data for enhanced accountability.
- Implement a more concrete schedule to eliminate or repurpose unused and vacant buildings such as old maintenance sheds or warehouses to safeguard taxpayer dollars, and focus funding on new and productive infrastructure.
- Examine infrastructure budgeting strategies, identify if reforms are required, and implement industry best practices.
- Provide annual budget requirements over a 10-year period so that Congress and VA can set about on the task of fully modernizing VA’s infrastructure in a strategic, comprehensive approach.
The legislation has been endorsed by The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
This effort comes on the heels of the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022, legislation supported by Sen. Warner and signed into law by President Biden to expand health care and resources for toxic-exposed veterans. The law also provided $5.5 billion in funding for 31 new facilities across the country – including another outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads – and streamlines the process for the VA to execute on new leases, removing bureaucratic hurdles and cutting down on some of the frustrating delays to these facilities’ completion.
Sen. Warner has long fought to improve care for Virginia’s veterans. In 2015, confronted with wait times in Hampton Roads that were three times the national average, Sen. Warner successfully urged the VA to send down a team of experts to address the problem. He also succeeded in getting the Northern Virginia Technology Council to issue a free report detailing how to reduce wait times. Sen. Warner also spearheaded a bipartisan effort to approve long-overdue leases for more than two dozen VA medical facilities across the country, including two in Virginia. In October 2020, Sen. Warner successfully saw through the signing of his legislation to expand veterans’ access to mental health services and reduce the alarming rate of veteran suicide.
Full text of the BUILD for Veterans Act is available here.