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ICYMI: American Jobs Plan Supports Veterans and Their Families

April 17, 2021

On Thursday, the White House released a fact sheet highlighting how the American Jobs Plan supports veterans and their families with more than $18 billion in investments to modernize VA health care facilities, create quality jobs for veterans, and support veteran-owned small businesses.

The White House hosted a press call with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, California Congressman Mark Takano, the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and Special Assistant to the President for Veterans Affairs Terri Tanielian to discuss how the American Jobs Plan would help veterans. Secretary McDonough underscored the need for the investments, noting how the "lack of modern infrastructure actually limits our ability to meet the evolving healthcare needs of veterans."

Chairman Takano echoed the need for the investments: "This is way more [money] than VA is used to seeing, especially for upgrading facilities. If we're going to build back veterans' trust in VA we have to start making some serious investments in the outdated infrastructure that serves them."

Read more below:
Washington Post: VA Secretary McDonough, Rep. Takano tout $18 billion proposed investments to VA hospitals

[Lisa Rein, 4/15/21]

VA Secretary Denis McDonough and House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) highlighted the benefits to veterans in President Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan, calling $18 billion in proposed investments to VA hospitals long-overdue modernizations.

"When you think about all the technology we're moving into modern hospitals, you can see why we're so concerned about VA's footprint," McDonough said at a meeting with reporters to underscore VA's share of the plan. "We're spending a lot of money on upkeep of older facilities at the moment."

McDonough compared the 11-year median age of a private hospital to 58 years for a comparable VA facility, many of which were built to care for veterans returning from World War II. The $18 billion would cover upgrades and new construction of about 10 hospitals, with the goal of improving medical care, including for female veterans.

Administration officials said they expect the infrastructure plan's emphasis on workforce training and expanding small businesses in underserved areas will accrue to veterans, many of whom have faced economic challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.

The infusion of money for VA comes as the agency gears up to review its hospital system to determine if some facilities are underused while others face high demand, and consider if closing some and expanding others makes sense.

"This is way more [money] than VA is used to seeing, especially for upgrading facilities," Takano said. "If we're going to build back veterans' trust in VA we have to start making some serious investments in the outdated infrastructure that serves them."

Reuters: Biden infrastructure plan includes $18 billion for Veterans Affairs, far more needed -lawmaker
[Andrea Shalal, 4/15/21]

President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan includes $18 billion to upgrade and replace aging Veterans Affairs hospitals, but the agency needs five times that much to bolster facilities and medical staff, a Democratic lawmaker said on Thursday.

Mark Takano, chairman of the House of Representatives Veterans' Affairs Committee, told reporters the initial funding boost was significant but said he hoped the president's next legislative push would help fill a big shortage of doctors.

"There's still an urgent need to support hiring for the VA," Takano told reporters on a videoconference. "With over 39,000 vacancies, it's critical that we do more to expedite hiring at the VA."

Takano said the total needed was far higher than the amount earmarked in the Democratic president's $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill, but he was upbeat there was enormous public support for upgrading and replacing aging current facilities.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough told the videoconference the funding in the infrastructure bill was "just a down payment" that would help replace 10 or 12 of the 30 facilities needed, but he had no immediate estimate for the total investment required.

The VA's 1,700 hospitals, clinics and medical facilities had a median age of 58 years, compared with just 11 years for private hospitals in the United States, he said, noting that 69% of VA hospitals were more than 50 years old.

"A lack of modern infrastructure actually limits our ability to meet the evolving healthcare needs of veterans," McDonough said, adding that the VA's upkeep costs had nearly doubled to just over $22 billion in 2020 from $11.6 billion in 2010.

He said the VA also benefited from funds in Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief program and his proposed budget, which would increase the VA's base budget by 8.2% in fiscal 2022.

The infrastructure package, which must be approved by Congress, would also help the roughly 200,000 veterans who leave military service each year to transition to civilian jobs, and boost funding to help the estimated 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses, officials said.

Joseph R. Biden, ICYMI: American Jobs Plan Supports Veterans and Their Families Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/349584

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