Opening Statement for Oversight Hearing on VA Leases, September 28, 2016
the Honorable Andrè Carson
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
“Department of Veterans Affairs Leases: Is the VA Over-Paying for Leased Medical Facilities?”
September 28, 2016
Good morning, and welcome to our hearing.
Today we’ll focus on the management of the Department of Veteran Affair’s (VA) medical leasing program. First and foremost, I want to make clear my dedication to our nation’s veterans. It is a top priority for all of us to ensure veterans receive high quality health care in VA medical facilities across the nation.
Prior to 2014, the VA used their own real estate authority to sign leases for medical facilities. However, the VA, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, later determined that they did not have legal authority necessary to enter into multi-year leases.
The VA now relies on the General Services Administration’s (GSA) authority to execute these leases. In 2014, this Committee approved six prospectuses submitted by GSA on behalf of the VA. These six medical facility leases were the first of their kind to be approved by the Committee. Typically, these facilities include mental health clinics, readjustment-counseling centers, research and other types of clinical spaces. Because the VA is working with the GSA to execute these leases, they now come before this Committee for approval.
Although we approved the first six leases, Chairman Barletta and I, and members of the Veteran Affairs Committee, thought it was appropriate to request the Government Accountability Office (GAO) study the VA’s choices in managing its real property assets.
Specifically, we asked GAO to help the Committee evaluate the VA’s decision to lease or own these facilities, how the VA compares to private medical providers, and whether there are opportunities for savings.
We want to support the VA’s efforts to provide essential health care to our country’s veterans. It’s also important that this Committee have some assurances that the VA is managing its real estate assets as efficiently as possible. Every dollar saved in a real estate transaction is a dollar that can be re-directed to supportive services for veterans, an important priority for every Member of Congress.
I look forward to today’s testimony from the VA, GSA and GAO on how this program is being managed and how improvements can be made going forward.