Collins, King Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Authorize Delayed VA Medical Lease for Outpatient Facility in Portland

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King today joined Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) in introducing the Providing Veterans Overdue Care Act, bipartisan legislation that would authorize leases for 24 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities in fifteen states, including an outpatient facility in Portland, Maine. The proposed clinic, a joint partnership between Maine VA, Maine Medical Center and Tufts School of Medicine, aims to increase veterans’ access to core and specialty care services including integrated mental health and telemedicine technology to improve access to care in rural locations.

“Maine veterans deserve convenient access to high-quality health care services, but the longer this lease remains unauthorized, the longer veterans may have to wait to receive care – and that is unacceptable,” Senators Collins and King said in a joint statement. “Congress needs to take action to ensure that we live up to the solemn promise we made to our nation’s veterans. Passing this bill would be a good first step.”

Under current law, the VA must receive specific legislative authorization to lease medical facilities with average annual rental payments in excess of $1 million. However, since 2012, Congress has not, through a regular process, authorized any VA major medical facility leases, hampering the ability of the VA to provide much-needed health care and services to veterans around the country. The Providing Veterans Overdue Care Act will authorize 18 overdue leases from Fiscal Year 2015 and Fiscal Year 2016, as well as six facilities that need to be authorized in the rapidly approaching 2017 Fiscal Year. The 24 leases are located in states with an estimated 11 million veterans.

Under current law, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must receive specific legislative authorization to lease medical facilities with average annual rental payments in excess of $1 million. However, since 2012, Congress has not, through a regular process, authorized any VA major medical facility leases, hampering the ability of the VA to provide much-needed health care and services to veterans around the country. The Providing Veterans Overdue Care Act will authorize 18 overdue leases from Fiscal Year 2015 and Fiscal Year 2016, as well as six facilities that need to be authorized in the rapidly approaching 2017 Fiscal Year. The 24 leases are located in states with an estimated 11 million veterans.

One reason for the delay in Congressional authorization has been a recent change in the way that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores these leases. Prior to 2012, the VA classified major medical facility leases as operating leases and recorded the obligations on an annual basis in an amount equal to the lease payments due in that year, and the CBO used VA’s classification to score the legislation. In 2012, CBO determined that budget authority for these leases, many of which cover a 20-year period, should be recorded up front when the leases are initiated and the acquisition occurs, not when the debt is repaid. As such, scoring for legislation that authorized these leases increased significantly, even though actual spending would not increase and the leases are ultimately subject to annual appropriations. Senators Collins and King, along with several of their colleagues, previously urged the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs not to delay further on the lease authorizations.

The scoring change has contributed to congressional inaction on authorizing any VA major medical facility leases. Currently, 18 leases in 12 states from fiscal years 2015 and 2016 have been pending authorization in Congress for more than one year. The CBO scores the overall cost of these 18 leases at $904 million. The 18 leases that are pending from FY 2015 and FY 2016 are:

  • Ann Arbor, MI - Outpatient Clinic
  • Birmingham, AL - Outpatient Mental Health Clinic
  • Birmingham, AL - Outpatient Specialty Clinic
  • Boston, MA - Research
  • Charleston, SC - Research
  • Daytona Beach, FL - Outpatient Clinic
  • Denver, CO - Chief Business Office Purchased Care
  • Gainesville, FL - Outpatient Clinic
  • Hampton Roads, VA - Outpatient Clinic
  • Mission Bay, CA - Research
  • Missoula, MT - Outpatient Clinic
  • Northern Colorado, CO - Outpatient Clinic
  • Ocala, FL - Outpatient Clinic
  • Oxnard, CA - Outpatient Clinic
  • Pike County, GA - Outpatient Clinic
  • Portland, ME - Outpatient Clinic
  • Raleigh, NC - Outpatient Clinic
  • Santa Rosa, CA - Outpatient Clinic

In addition, the legislation will authorize six leases for FY 2017:

  • Corpus Christi, TX – Replacement Outpatient Clinic
  • Jacksonville, FL – Replacement Outpatient Clinic
  • Pontiac, MI – Replacement Outpatient Clinic
  • Rochester, NY – Replacement Outpatient Clinic II
  • Tampa, FL – Replacement Lakeland Outpatient Clinic
  • Terre Haute, IN – Replacement Outpatient Clinic

Other cosponsors of the legislation include Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Text of the legislation is available here.