Tester Leads Commonsense Bill to Modernize VA Infrastructure and Deliver Veterans New Facilities in Montana
Chairman continues push to modernize delivery of VA infrastructure projects, bolster workforce, and save taxpayer dollars through his BUILD for Veterans Act;
Introduces second bill to authorize construction projects at VA Fort Harrison
Continuing his push to strengthen veterans’ access to health care and benefits in the 118th Congress, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester is introducing the Build, Utilize, Invest, Learn, and Deliver (BUILD) for Veterans Act of 2023—commonsense legislation to modernize and streamline the delivery of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities and other infrastructure projects, bolster its workforce, and save taxpayer dollars by expediting the disposal or repurposing of unused and vacant buildings owned by the Department.
“Delivering veterans their earned health care and benefits starts with ensuring VA’s infrastructure works for our rural communities and beyond,” said Chairman Tester. “That’s why I’m proud to have worked alongside local communities to open new facilities for veterans across the state, and am focused on investing in additional projects like the ones at Fort Harrison. The BUILD for Veterans Act will help aid this effort by strengthening VA’s capacity to deliver veterans state-of-the-art care, while saving taxpayer dollars in the process.”
Currently, VA lacks a strategic plan, sufficient infrastructure workforce, and consistent funding to initiate the building or remodeling of facilities identified by the Department. The Senator’s BUILD for Veterans Act would strengthen the Department’s ability to initiate critical projects to better meet the need of current and future veterans—including women veterans, veterans in need of long-term care services, and veterans with spinal cord injuries and diseases. Among its many provisions, the bill would require VA to implement a more concrete schedule to eliminate or repurpose unused and vacant buildings, develop and execute a plan to hire construction personnel, examine infrastructure budgeting strategies and identify required reforms, and provide annual budget requirements over a 10-year period.
Montana and national veterans advocates threw their support behind the Senator’s efforts to strengthen and modernize the delivery of VA infrastructure:
“I strongly support Senator Tester’s latest legislative effort to bring money to update, renovate, and build much needed facilities including a new utility plant, a new parking garage, and eventually a new acute inpatient care facility at the Fort Harrison Medical Center,” said Mike Lawson, Commandant, Southwest Montana Detachment 724, Marine Corps League. “I also support the Senator’s Build for Veterans Act. This would speed up the modernization and delivery of new veterans’ medical facilities and other infrastructure projects at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Montana and across the country.”
“The Department of Montana VFW fully supports the BUILD for Veterans Act of 2023,” said Timothy C. Peters, State Adjutant/Quartermaster, Department of Montana, Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Legislation is desperately needed to require the VA get their house in order as it pertains to infrastructure projects, some of which have been waiting for decades to be executed. America’s veterans stepped up when called to serve, it’s high time the VA has our back and provides the best quality care to our veterans as possible. Our veterans deserve no less.”
“The VFW fully supports the BUILD for Veterans Act which would improve VA’s facilities around the country,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Legislative Director Pat Murray. “VA infrastructure has been underprioritized for far too long and left without a plan for addressing many of the outdated buildings or the backlog of work. The BUILD for Veterans Act will require VA to develop and implement plans, to remedy this problem that has plagued VA for years. We are grateful for Senator Tester’s efforts to deliver infrastructure solutions to VA and for bringing attention to this often-overlooked problem.”
“With the growing number of veterans expected to enter the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care system in the coming decades, it has become increasingly imperative that Congress take the lead in strengthening VA’s health care infrastructure, and Sen. Tester’s BUILD for Veterans Act is a critical first step toward achieving that goal,” said Joy Ilem, National Legislative Director of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). “This legislation would strengthen VA’s ability to construct, manage and maintain hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities across the country. DAV strongly supports the BUILD for Veterans Act and commends Sen. Tester for his continued leadership and commitment to the men and women who served, particularly those injured, made ill or disabled from their service.”
“Veterans with catastrophic disabilities depend on VA’s specialized health care services to meet their unique health care needs throughout their lives,” said Paralyzed Veterans of America Associate Executive Director for Government Relations Heather Ansley. “The BUILD for Veterans Act provides a comprehensive approach to help address problems with VA’s internal processes that have hindered its ability to ensure the department’s infrastructure is able to meet the ever-growing demand for not only acute health care services but also facility-based long-term care options. We thank Senator Tester for introducing this important legislation and urge its swift passage.”
“A top priority of The American Legion is ensuring VA has state-of-the-art facilities to support veterans medical and mental healthcare needs,” said The American Legion National Commander Vincent J. Troiola. “Robustly investing in and revitalizing the aging VA infrastructure is critical to the VA healthcare systems overall success. We must ensure VA is properly resourced and structured to manage the infrastructure of the largest integrated healthcare network in the U.S. By improving VA capital asset programs and increasing congressional oversight, the BUILD Act will assist in establishing a foundation for VA’s infrastructure modernization efforts. We greatly appreciate Senator Tester and other Senators’ leadership on this issue.”
“Veterans expect that the VA will welcome them with facilities that can help deliver the care that they need,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Executive Vice President Tom Porter. “The BUILD for Veterans Act provides badly needed reforms to enable the VA to modernize facilities and strengthen oversight and management of the agency’s capital asset program and project execution. Senator Tester should be commended for taking the significant step forward for veterans’ health care needs with this important bill.”
As the only member of the Montana delegation who sits on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester has led the way in expanding veterans’ access to care in Montana—securing resources to build new and modernized facilities across the state. Through years of focused work with multiple Administrations of both parties, and working across the aisle in Washington and with communities across Montana, Tester’s efforts resulted in new facilities opening in several areas including eight that opened in the last three years in Fort Harrison in Helena, Missoula, Miles City,Bozeman, Great Falls, Havre, and two in Butte.
Chairman Tester is also introducing the Fiscal Year 2023 Major Medical Facility Authorization Act this week. This bipartisan bill will authorize several VA construction projects this year, including an $88.6 million investment at the Fort Harrison VA Medical Center in Montana to construct a new central utility plan and parking garage. Tester recently secured the funding for this project as part of the federal omnibus appropriations package for fiscal year 2023. These combined efforts build upon historic infrastructure investments in Tester’s Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. The PACT Actinvested in VA’s infrastructure workforce through new recruitment and retention incentives, providing $5.5 billion in funding for 31 new facilities in 19 states, and delivering additional tools to build clinics more efficiently in the future.
Text of the BUILD for Veterans Act can be found HERE.
A one-pager on the bill can be found HERE.