Letter Instructs VA to Find Funding from Existing Resources through Savings, Efficiencies, and Reform Initiatives
Washington, DC - Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet sent a letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson demanding that the VA swiftly present a comprehensive funding plan to Congress for completing the long-awaited VA medical facility in Aurora by identifying savings, efficiencies, and other accountability initiatives within the VA. This could include ruling out bonuses until the project is completed. The VA will also have to develop a plan that provides certainty that all options will be exhausted to complete the project. The letter comes in response to Deputy Secretary Gibson's announcement that the VA will submit a legislative plan for the hospital to Congress.
In the letter to Deputy Secretary Gibson, Bennet wrote:
"...the plan must focus on identifying funds from existing monies appropriated to your agency and I urge to you include funds identified through savings, efficiencies, and other reform initiatives. It is critically important that the VA work to exhaust all options to find funding for the facility's completion -especially those where excess can be trimmed, reforms implemented, and efficiency exercised. Importantly, Congress must receive a detailed breakdown of planned spending of these funds in order to carry out its oversight function as a steward of taxpayer dollars."
Bennet also expressed support for provisions in Senator Gardner's VA hospital Construction, Accountability, and Reform Act which aims to aid completion of the hospital and implement further reforms to the VA construction process.
Since he took office, Bennet has been committed to ensuring the hospital is completed. He has raised concerns regarding delays to VA officials and urged it to work with the Army Corps of Engineers. In January, he offered amendments at a Senate Finance Committee hearing of the Hire More Heroes Act to help complete hospital. He also led efforts to bring the Senate Veterans Affairs committee to Colorado for an upcoming field hearing at the hospital.
He has also recently sponsored two amendments to increase veteran's access to health care in rural communities and successfully urged the VA to update its "40 mile rule " to account for the actual distance veterans travel to a VA medical facility rather than the straight-line distance between the veteran and the medical center. The update allows more Colorado veterans to access the Veteran Choice Act, which Bennet helped pass.
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