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VA may close 1,100 facilities to privatize more veterans healthcare

Vacant and underutilized buildings cost $25 million each year to run, and closing these sites will let the VA reinvest in facilities with capital nee

Jessica Davis, Associate Editor

The Department of Veterans Affairs is considering closing over 1,165 of its facilities as part of its plans to let more veterans receive medical care in the private sector, VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, told U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations on Wednesday.

The VA found more than 430 vacant and 735 underutilized buildings that Shulkin said cost the federal government about $25 million each year. He wants to work with congress to prioritize the buildings to be closed.

"We want to stop supporting our use of maintenance of buildings we don't need, and we want to reinvest that in buildings we know have capital needs," said Shulkin.

While Shulkin does not support a shift to prioritize the privatization of veterans' healthcare, he told the committee he wants to continue the work of private-public partnerships in lieu of building more medical centers.

The Veterans Choice program started after the wait time scandal broke in 2014, with employees covering up how long veterans had to wait to receive care. The program was designed to allow those veterans who had to drive far or wait too long to receive care to visit private sector providers.

Trump extended this program last month, and Shulkin reiterated its necessity during the committee meeting, as the VA is still working to improve care access and wait times. He's currently working on a broader proposal to expand the Choice program.

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