Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) has teamed up with legislators across party lines to fix the Veteran Affairs’ leasing process for hospitals and doctors’ offices, which has led to decades-long cost overruns and delays.
Kim sent a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, along with other members of Congress, writing on behalf of “nearly half a million veterans” that make up their constituents. In Kim’s own district, a VA healthcare facility was promised over two years ago, but has been delayed twice.
Toms River resident Robert Bauer, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam, had his annual physical delayed for five months because he was told the closest VA clinic “did not have enough doctors” last year. And because the facility lacked adequate parking, Bauer was left parking in the woods.
“The current (county based outpatient clinics) is outdated and cannot accommodate all the veterans in our community that need care,” Bauer said in a series introduced by Kim’s office to highlight veterans’ struggles. “They have not kept up with the times and it’s not fair and frustrating.”
Legislators said the VA is still struggling to build new facilities nearly a year after a 2019 Inspector General report said the program needs improvement and included a detailed examination of the development of leases for 24 major medical facilities.
According to the letter, the VA has failed to award leases for three major facilities, including one in Kim’s district, and the VA has not moved into at least 19 facilities.
“As a result, only 3 of the 25 facilities approved by Congress in 2014 are currently serving our nation’s veterans,” members explained.
Kim asked Wilkie to answer questions on how they will fully implement the OIG’s recommendations and prevent any further delays.
“Robert’s story is one of too many veterans in Ocean County who have been let down by the VA’s failures,” said Kim in a statement. “No veteran should have to wait five months for care or park in an unsafe place in order to access their health care. The VA needs to act now to make this right for veterans like Robert.”