Jan 25 2023
WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner joined Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in reintroducing the Build, Utilize, Invest, Learn, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act of 2023. This legislation would modernize and streamline the delivery of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities and other infrastructure projects, bolster its workforce, and save taxpayer dollars by expediting the disposal or repurposing of unused and vacant buildings owned by the Department.
Currently, the VA lacks a strategic plan, sufficient infrastructure workforce, and consistent funding to initiate the building or remodeling of facilities identified by the Department. The BUILD for Veterans Act would strengthen the Department’s ability to initiate critical projects to better meet the need of current and future veterans—including women veterans, veterans in need of long-term care services, and veterans with spinal cord injuries and diseases. Among its many provisions, the bill would require the VA to implement a more concrete schedule to eliminate or repurpose unused and vacant buildings, develop and execute a plan to hire construction personnel, examine infrastructure budgeting strategies and identify required reforms, and provide annual budget requirements over a 10-year period.
“Cumbersome bureaucratic processes have long stood in the way of critical VA projects such as the opening and remodeling of hospitals, clinics, and benefits offices. As a result, we’ve seen unnecessary challenges in meeting the needs of veterans seeking care and support through the VA,” said Sen. Warner, who successfully spearheaded congressional efforts to approve new VA health care projects across the country, including outpatient clinics in Hampton Roads and Fredericksburg. “This legislation builds on recent efforts, and will allow us to better serve veterans and cut down on some of these pointless delays by pushing the VA to more strategically plan and budget for projected demand, and to improve its capacity to manage current and future infrastructure projects.”
The bill is endorsed by a range of veteran service organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, The American Legion, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
This effort builds upon the 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 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.
In addition to the PACT Act, Sen. Warner 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 2022, Sen. Warner joined with VA officials to break ground on a new VA facility in Chesapeake that will provide primary care, mental health, and eye clinic services and will reduce drive times for Hampton Roads’ fast-growing veteran population.