The Other Backlog: VA’s Critical Infrastructure

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If the Department of Veterans Affairs is to provide high quality, accessible health care for our ill and injured veterans, Congress must provide adequate funding to maintain  current structures and reduce the backlog of critical construction and maintenance projects.

With buildings that have an average age of 60 years, the VA has a monumental task of improving and maintaining these facilities. Those facilities are where our veterans  receive care and are just as important as the doctors, nurses and other VA staff who deliver that care. A VA budget that does not adequately fund facility maintenance and construction needs will reduce the timeliness and quality of care for veterans.

With shrinking requests and appropriations from the Administration and Congress, the VA is falling further behind in maintenance, repairs and safety improvements. Just to maintain the VA’s infrastructure in its current condition, the agency’s Non-Recurring Maintenance account would justify $1.35 billion a year, The Independent Budget and veterans service organizations have calculated. That account is currently funded at $712 million. More funds will need to be invested to prevent the documented $22.4 billion maintenance backlog from growing even larger. The VA’s major construction account doesn’t fare much better. To finish existing projects and to close current and future gaps, the VA will need to invest some $21.7 billion during the next 10 years. At current funding levels, however, between 18 and 22 years will be required to complete the VA’s 10-year plan.

To meet all the minor construction needs within the 10-year timeline, the VA would need to invest $8.5 billion to $10 billion, including an additional $1 billion to the account for this year. If minor construction continues to be funded at the fiscal year 2012 appropriated level, more than 16 years will be required to complete VA’s 10-year plan.

In addition to funding shortfalls, the Strategic Capital Investment Plan, which is intended to help the VA make more informed decisions, lacks a mechanism for a  comprehensive assessment of resources that lie outside of the VA through existing contracts and sharing agreements. Without a comprehensive understanding of the health care resources that exist within and outside of the VA, it would be difficult for the department to make sound decisions on capital investments and rightsize its inventory for the near, mid, and long term. Another apparent flaw of SCIP is the lack of transparency on the costs of future real property priorities, which hinders the VA’s  ability to make informed decisions. This was among the findings in a 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office.

DAV and our grassroots advocates will continue monitoring the levels of funding for each of the VA’s infrastructure accounts to ensure that all current gaps are closed  within 10 years and that emerging and future gaps will have sufficient funding. And we will be ready to spring into action if the need arises.

  • lemgenovese

    Part of the DVA projected budgets should ALWAYS include not just needed maintenance on the hospitals, clinics and facilities the operate, but have enough proactive approaches and systems in place to make them more energy efficient, cost effective and more durable.

  • Blueray

    I was at the VA Hospital yesterday. They are introducing a new “kiosk” which will have the Veteran sign in on his own. I’m sore it’s driven by cost reductions in personnel, but as a 40 year Manufacturing Engineer specializing in cost red reductions and improvements, I give the a 3 out 10 chance of success. One, it puts another separation between the Veteran and real people. Two, the cost reduction in staff will be replaced by maintenance and support fees. If you are cutting the cost of personnel by 1/2 person per kiosk, you have not realized a a true savings, the idea of diverting that person’s time to other duties works on paper, but seldom in fact. So carrying this on to bigger projects, somebody has to keep an eye on reality.

    • Steve Grove

      I have used the kiosk. I like it,

  • Bill bob

    I to was at a VA kiosk last week, NOT impressed all the nurses and staff was were just standing around. No instructions on how it was to work. Oh there was a sign that said take a number, and wait until your #is called. Than check in, at check in window, ( where the 3 girls were watching utube on their phones ). Which I did, after I got their attention. Than was told to sit down until my # is called. The Computer called my number, and said go to station number four,(where the hell was station number four? Went back to check in window, where the girls were still on their phones watching videos, I broke in and ask where # 4 was. Was told around the corner ( station around the corner) when back to window and was than informed that it was inside the room on the left, found the room ,and there was # 4. Got my blood taken, with out anybody asking my name or social Security number. (There was 4 nurses just standing around waiting for patients) can anybody see what’s wrong here!

  • BillyD

    I just finished a claim for myself with five parts to it which the VA turned down all parts!! First they LOST the claim for over two year and told me they were working on it—then they FOUND it in August, 2013 and finished it in September, 2013—turning down all parts with almost no test done!! My knees were turned down with NO X-RAY done!! Seems to me by my experience (dealing with the VA) that they just turned down everything to get the claim numbers down!! I have had to re-send information to them on many occasions that they could not find and they never acknowledge receipt of anything!! They want all the claims they have turned down to end up as appeals which starts the clock over again!! When I had my heart attack in 2009 my private doctor caught the VA doing things to cause me problems with my appeal from the turned down claim!!!He wrote me a letter and I sent it to them in New Orleans___They have lost the letter and after I send it to them many times they finally said they received it in 2011 which was to late to use it as evidence in my appeal!! This reduction of claims is very suspicious with me knowing how my claim went!! BEWARE!!

  • James Wilks

    The kiosk’s that i have seen in the VA’s don’t work or not being utilized. Another waste of VA money as usual…

  • Teufel Hunden

    I have been using VA services for some time started in New Orleans, then in Southern California, what I had noticed over the years is that ‘us’ the Veterans should try to become one, if we do not speak up or just do it one on one basis that we are going to be defeated. The Hospitals can not handle the load; we are too many and the buildings and services are at times terrible, but not all the time: I had an experience that when I got to the VA hospital I was dead and the doctors did a great job I was an inpatient for a month and I thank God and the different groups of Experts that handled my case I came out with an approximate figure of 150 perhaps a few more than that, but I am alive and feel fine within my limitations. Just remember guys we had been to hell and back to civilization, people cannot understand us, Vets are unique and I am proud of being a Veteran and if I had the opportunity to serve I would not hesitate.

  • DSDS and OIF Veteran

    The VA health care system is failure in my opinion. every time I go there for an appointment (Waco Clinic), it seems that the physician talks me out of medications and treatment as if he is paying out of his pocket, What a disgrace, I got to the point I have no faith in our VA health care system, neither in our Law makers who allow this to happen. I am not sure how this can be fixed and what does it take to have our law makers to put their hearts into it? However, I have to give credit to the counseling folks at the mental health clinic at Waco Texas. They are very caring and decent folks. Thank you.

  • Cecelia Ann Wright

    Joke? Let me just add my 2 cents worth in. To date, I have been waiting over 3 years. Every vet I run into tells me you have more of a good chance of dying than hear anything on the “backlog!” So more or less, I guess I am looking forward to death than from them, right? My father, who is also a Korean/WWII vet needs Assisted Living Care. But as we were told again, he is closer to the grave, more than ever now because we can’t afford $4,000 – $5,000 a month care. So it’s race between my father and I on who will reach the grave first. We are hoping both of us go together. Thanks for all your help!

  • JoeTN

    I must say that I’ve had a totally different experience with the VA in Memphis Tennessee. I have received treatment, prescriptions,and courteous treatment everytime I’ve gone to Memphis VA.

  • stan

    The quality of care seems to vary dramatically from place to place. My local clinic in Owensboro, KY and the one in Evansville, IN are excellent and staffed with highly qualified personnel with one notable exception, an orthopedic surgeon in Evansville. If you are not receiving appropriate care then raise he!!. Contact the ombudsman, your congressman, or the DAV as if you’re receiving substandard care then so are other vets.

  • John Kerttu

    The VA treated my sore back for 8 years with generic Motrin and never did an MRI or CT scan of their own.

    It took 3 years for the VA cancer Specialist Doctor Singh in Iron Mountain Michigan to finally take a look at my CT Scans and MRIs. For 3 years Doctor Singh met with me every six months and did a simple blood test to monitor my cancer. Doctor Louis-Mercer in the Hancock Michigan clinic never saw the CT scans or MRIs either. When I first told Doctor Louis-Mercer that the civilian doctors at Portage Hospital, Doctor Anderson and Doctor Jahoda, had told me I had cancer, she told me “you don’t have cancer until you have a biopsy to prove it first.” I had a baseball size mass growing by my kidney which had only minor back pain as a symptom. My civilian doctor ordered the MRI and CT scan tests that found the tumor after they found the misshapen kidney during a routine exam for a sore back. Three years after the cancer surgery, I requested a C&P exam for service connection for cancer and the loss of a kidney. My claim was denied as usual, because I did not have cancer before I retired from the navy. But in the report I read that The Milwaukee VA C&P Doctor asked “Where are the patients MRI and CT scans?” So, I started asking questions about the missing records that the civilian hospital had been sending to Iron Mountain for three years.

    I was told that the VA policy is that they will not upload into their computer any civilian hospital records such as my MRI and CT scans.

    I am so glad I saw Doctor Anderson for my back pain and I was treated in a civilian hospital for cancer. Had I trusted the VA doctors to find it, I would probably have died because the VA never even looked for cancer, even after I had the kidney surgery.

  • John Kerttu

    I was told by a VA doctor that the VA Hospital Administrator gets a bigger bonus the more he cuts the cost of running the hospital. Tying the VA staff’s bonus to cost cutting does not sound like it is in the best interests of the VA patients.

  • olpoohky

    I lost over a 100 # and have complained about this for over a year to the VA. I was told, “We have done everything that we can do…”. In despair and nearing suicide, I contacted a congressman. Finally, the VA started getting on the ball. The words to a congressman made it so my care is like it would be if I was on the outside or had money to pay. Why do I have to contact a congressman to get action.