Emphasizing the need to reform the process for constructing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities to promote greater access to health care for the nation’s veterans, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) introduced legislation that would expedite construction for new facilities across the nation, including the outpatient clinic authorized to be built in nearby French Camp. Rep. McNerney is introducing this bill ahead of a U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee hearing that will discuss construction projects.
“I’ve experienced firsthand how veterans in my district have to travel long distances for routine appointments and the burden that limited access to care can put on their lives. While our veterans have earned these benefits in service to their country, the current system for VA construction has been plagued by cost overruns and delays. Further action is required to make sure the VA health delivery systems meet the health care needs of our veterans,” said McNerney. “One way to achieve this is to expedite the construction of more clinics and facilities that can administer care and connect veterans to vital services. I am committed to using every possible approach to provide veterans with quality health care they need.”
In 2013, 50 major construction projects were under management by the VA at a cost of more than $12 billion. A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that for some of the VA’s largest medical construction projects costs had skyrocketed and schedule delays threw the projects off track. Projects in Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, and New Orleans have all experienced significant setbacks in their construction.
The GAO found that as of January 2015, delays for these projects ranged from 14 to 86 months, and cost increases ranged between 66 percent and 144 percent. This includes the cost of the New Orleans project increasing by $40 million and the Orlando project being delayed 39 to 57 months.
H.R. 4129 would jumpstart construction by establishing a pilot program to allow the VA to enter into partnership agreements with non-federal entities to build major medical facility projects. The bill would allow non-federal entities to initiate and manage the construction for major medical facility projects at sites where Congress already allocated funding, and for which design work has been completed, but construction has yet to begin.
For each project, the VA would enter into agreements on a competitive basis with non-federal entities, like state government, municipalities, port authorities, flood control districts, and provide matching funds. These entities could take the lead on construction, with the ability to raise capital for the project and accelerate the construction of major medical facilities.
One of these projects could include the outpatient facility already authorized for construction in French Camp. McNerney has been a tireless advocate for securing the authorization and funding for more VA facilities, particularly the French Camp clinic, repeatedly calling for the financial resources to complete the project.
“My legislation is an investment in the health of our veterans in communities where expanded access is most needed – this includes the facility in French Camp that would serve the 87,000 veterans in the Central Valley. Constructing these facilities will also boost regional economies through job creation,” said McNerney.
McNerney serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties.