WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the longest serving Ohioan on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT), and Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Thune (R-SD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), and Rob Portman (R-OH) today released 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.”
The senators opposition will effectively put an end to the AIR Commission and allow the Chillicothe VA to remain open and southern Ohio veterans to continue receiving care at the facility.
. In April, Brown hosted Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough at the Chillicothe VA Medical Center (CVAMC) for roundtable discussions with veterans and employees and meetings with CVAMC and union leadership to hear from those who would be impacted by the VA’s recommendations to AIR Commission to close down the CVAMC. Prior to McDonough’s visit, Brown made two trips to Chillicothe to host roundtable discussions with veterans and employees. Brown has continued to meet with and raised his concerns to McDonough that a closure would place a hardship on thousands of Ohio veterans. Approximately 1,400 employees work at the CVAMC and serves an estimated 20,000 veterans annually.
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.