Senator Collins Leads Bipartisan Push to Address Technicality That is Harming Veterans’ Access to Timely and Quality Health Care, Including Veterans in Southern Maine

24 medical facilities in 15 states, including one in Portland, have been delayed due to a budgetary technicality: As a result of Senator Collins’ advocacy, the proposed Portland VA medical facility is already fully-funded

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, led a bipartisan letter with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) urging that all pending VA medical centers be authorized before Congress adjourns. The issue affects 24 facilities in 15 states, including the proposed Portland community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC) lease for which Senator Collins secured funding earlier this year. The letter, which was addressed to Senate leadership as well as to the leadership of the Senate Appropriations and VA Committees, was signed by 18 Senators, including Senator Angus King (I-ME).

All 24 of these leases have already been fully funded by Congress, but their authorization has been delayed due to a budgetary technicality. Under current rules, the Congressional Budget Office scores these leases as having large, up-front direct costs even though spending would not increase and the leases are subject to annual appropriations. As a result of this scoring issue, Congress has had difficulty authorizing major medical leases for the past three years.

The proposed CBOC in Portland would consolidate the existing Saco and Portland CBOCs and enhance VA outpatient services. The lease would increase veterans’ access to a core set of services and additional specialty care in a right-sized, state-of-the-art, energy efficient health care facility in the Portland area. The planned full deployment of tele-medicine technologies in the new clinic would further improve veterans’ access to care in rural locations throughout Maine. Although Senator Collins secured funding for the proposed Portland CBOC earlier this year, it cannot move forward without authorization.

“Veterans deserve convenient access to high-quality health care services they have earned through their service,” said Senator Collins. “CBOCs provide an essential service to our veterans by allowing them to receive outpatient care without the stress and difficulty of traveling to larger VA medical centers, which may be located far away from veterans’ homes. I will continue to urge my colleagues to support the authorization of these leases so that vital facilities like the proposed Portland CBOC can begin serving our veterans.”

“The longer these VA medical facility leases sit unauthorized, the longer our veterans might be waiting for the quality health care services they earned,” said Senator King. “That, quite simply, is unacceptable. It is past time that Congress stepped up to allow these important projects, like the proposed CBOC in Portland, to move forward in order to support veterans in Maine and across the country.”

The full list of leases needing authorization is below:

1. Ann Arbor, MI – Outpatient Clinic
2. Birmingham, AL – Outpatient Mental Health Clinic
3. Birmingham, AL – Outpatient Specialty Clinic
4. Boston, MA – Research Space
5. Charleston, SC – Research Space
6. Daytona Beach, FL – Outpatient Clinic
7. Denver, CO – Chief Business Office Purchased Care
8. Gainesville, FL – Outpatient Clinic
9. Hampton Roads, VA – Outpatient Clinic
10. Mission Bay, CA – Research Space
11. Missoula, MT – Outpatient Clinic
12. Northern Colorado, CO – Outpatient Clinic
13. Ocala, FL – Outpatient Clinic
14. Oxnard, CA – Outpatient Clinic
15. Pike County, GA – Outpatient Clinic
16. Portland, ME – Outpatient Clinic
17. Raleigh, NC – Outpatient Clinic
18. Santa Rosa, CA – Outpatient Clinic
19. Corpus Christi, TX – Outpatient Clinic
20. Jacksonville, FL – Outpatient Clinic
21. Pontiac, MI – Outpatient Clinic
22. Rochester, NY – Outpatient Clinic
23. Tampa – FL – Outpatient Clinic
24. Terre Haute, IN – Outpatient Clinic

In September, Senators Collins and King joined Senator Warner in introducing the Providing Veterans Overdue Care Act, standalone legislation to authorize the leases.

The text of the bipartisan letter is below. Click HERE to read the signed PDF letter.

 

November 30, 2016

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Reid, Chairman Cochran, Vice Chairwoman Mikulski, Chairman Isakson, and Ranking Member Blumenthal:

We write to urge the authorization of 24 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) major medical facility leases before the 114th Congress adjourns. Funding for these leases has already been provided by Congress in previous appropriations acts. These authorizations are necessary to enable VA to deliver vital care and services to veterans across the United States.

A 2012 change in budgetary scoring of VA’s major medical leases by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has hampered the authorization of these important leases. Due to the change, the lease authorizations receive large, up-front direct spending scores covering the entire life of the lease, even though actual spending would not increase and the leases are subject to annual appropriations. This scoring issue has prevented Congress from easily authorizing major medical leases for the past three years, affecting 24 facilities across 15 states.

The full list of leases needing authorization is below:

25. Ann Arbor, MI – Outpatient Clinic
26. Birmingham, AL – Outpatient Mental Health Clinic
27. Birmingham, AL – Outpatient Specialty Clinic
28. Boston, MA – Research Space
29. Charleston, SC – Research Space
30. Daytona Beach, FL – Outpatient Clinic
31. Denver, CO – Chief Business Office Purchased Care
32. Gainesville, FL – Outpatient Clinic
33. Hampton Roads, VA – Outpatient Clinic
34. Mission Bay, CA – Research Space
35. Missoula, MT – Outpatient Clinic
36. Northern Colorado, CO – Outpatient Clinic
37. Ocala, FL – Outpatient Clinic
38. Oxnard, CA – Outpatient Clinic
39. Pike County, GA – Outpatient Clinic
40. Portland, ME – Outpatient Clinic
41. Raleigh, NC – Outpatient Clinic
42. Santa Rosa, CA – Outpatient Clinic
43. Corpus Christi, TX – Outpatient Clinic
44. Jacksonville, FL – Outpatient Clinic
45. Pontiac, MI – Outpatient Clinic
46. Rochester, NY – Outpatient Clinic
47. Tampa – FL – Outpatient Clinic
48. Terre Haute, IN – Outpatient Clinic

Veterans in each of these states deserve the timely and quality health care benefits they have earned through their service. As such, we ask that you work to include authorization for these leases in the December funding bill, or another appropriate vehicle, to be signed into law this year. We thank you for your continuing dedication to our nation’s veterans and look forward to working with you to ensure their timely access to VA health care.

Sincerely,