WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley this week introduced legislation that would improve the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to serve America’s veterans by removing roadblocks to construction of some VA projects.
The bill would expedite the process for more routine construction at VA facilities, including clinics, by raising the cap on such projects from $10 million to $20 million. Currently, Congress must individually approve VA construction projects that cost more than $10 million, which can result in delays of months or even years. The VA asked for the increase as part of its 2018 budget request to allow the department to better serve veterans.
“Our veterans shouldn’t have to wait for Congress to approve routine construction and maintenance projects in order to get the care they need,” Wyden said. “This bill will ensure more timely completion of the high-quality, up-to-date facilities our veterans deserve.”
“Congressional red tape shouldn’t stand in the way of projects that are essential to getting our veterans the care they’ve earned,” Merkley said. “The VA should be able to provide veterans with updated, modern facilities without being delayed by unnecessary bureaucratic hoops.”
Last year, the Portland VA requested bids to expand its emergency room and received only bids in excess of the $10 million cap. Since Congress last raised that cap in 2007, inflation and construction costs have eaten away at the VA’s ability to conduct routine construction and maintenance without a separate congressional authorization.
The Wyden-Merkley bill would also raise the cap for minor medical facility leases from $1 million to $1.5 million, the amount used by General Services Administration for leasing space in other government buildings.
The bill now goes to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee for consideration.
Find bill text here.