The United States Department of Veterans Affairs released its Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) report March 14, which included recommendations from the VA Secretary to modernize facilities and realign priorities. The list of recommendations would significantly reduce service available in VA Medical Facilities located in West Virginia.
U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC), and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) led a group of twelve bipartisan Senators in calling on President Biden to consult with Congress and local stakeholders on a state-by-state basis on the potential impacts the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission recommendations would have, especially on elderly Veterans.
Three VA Medical Centers in West Virginia – the Beckley VA Medical Center, the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg, and the Hershel “Woody” Williams VAMC in Huntington – would see a reduction in services and discontinue in-patient and emergency room care.
The VA Mission Act requires the VA Secretary to publish the AIR report in the Federal Register for a period of public comment and submit it to Congress and the presidentially appointed AIR Commission. The AIR Commission will conduct public hearings as part of its review of the VA’s recommendations before submitting its own recommendations to the president for review in 2023.
“Veterans will always be at the center of what we do,” said Terrance Hayes, press secretary for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “The AIR Commission is an opportunity to redesign VA health care to maximize access and outcomes for current and future generations of Veterans. It is important to note that any recommendations to the upcoming AIR Commission are just that — recommendations. Nothing is changing now for Veteran access to care or VA employees. Any potential changes to VA’s health care infrastructure may be several years away and are dependent on Commission, Presidential, and Congressional decisions, as well as robust stakeholder engagement and planning. In the long run, AIR recommendations could impact VHA facilities and staff, but it’s too early to know exactly what or where those impacts might be. VA will remain in all of our health care markets.”
The recommendations, as proposed, would move services now provided by VA facilities in West Virginia to VA facilities in states as far away as Connecticut, requiring veterans to travel across several states for long-term care. These would include services such as spinal cord injuries/disorders and blindness rehabilitation, among others.