WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), along with U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in releasing the following joint statement announcing their collective opposition to the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission process moving forward in the Senate, which signifies the end of the AIR Commission:
“As Senators, we share a commitment to expanding and strengthening modern VA infrastructure in a way that upholds our obligations to America’s veterans. We believe the recommendations put forth to the AIR Commission are not reflective of that goal, and would put veterans in both rural and urban areas at a disadvantage, which is why we are announcing that this process does not have our support and will not move forward. The Commission is not necessary for our continued push to invest in VA health infrastructure, and together we remain dedicated to providing the Department with the resources and tools it needs to continue delivering quality care and earned services to veterans in 21st century facilities—now and into the future.”
In 2018 Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law the VA MISSION Act. Among its many provisions, the law required the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to research, develop and publish a list of recommendations intended to modernize VA medical facilities and health care delivery—including through facility expansions, relocations, closures or changes in services. The law further directed those recommendations to be reviewed by a presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed Commission, which would then report its views of the recommendations to the President who could end the process or present recommendations to Congress for a vote. Without the Senate’s approval of the nominees, no Commission will be established and the process as outlined by the VA MISSION Act will not move forward.
Heinrich and Luján, along with U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández and Melanie Stansbury, objected to recommendations that the VA provided for the AIR Commission, which could have impacted the delivery of health care services at the community-based outpatient clinics in Gallup, Las Vegas, Española, and Raton in New Mexico.
Heinrich, the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees funding for the VA, will be joined by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough in New Mexico this week to visit VA facilities, talk with employees and veterans, and discuss the care and benefits being provided to New Mexico veterans. They will hold a media availability at the New Mexico VA Health Care System today, Monday, June 27 at 3 p.m. MT.