VA Needs Authority to Close Unneeded Facilities, McDonald Says

A BRAC-like process would help the Veterans Affairs Department shed 10 million square feet of space that it no longer needs and save $25 million a year, Secretary Robert McDonald said Wednesday.

“We need Congress to get the courage to allow us to close these spaces so we can make better use of the money we have,” McDonald told the audience at a military and family forum.

The VA says it has 336 buildings that are vacant or less than half-occupied, requiring $25 million in caretaker costs each year that could be used to hire 200 registered nurses or pay for 150,000 primary care visits, reports Military Times.

But persuading lawmakers to give the VA the authority to shutter excess facilities will be an uphill battle.

“Members of Congress and others don’t like us to close things in their geographic regions,” McDonald said.

The department’s portfolio includes hundreds of historic buildings that are popular with veterans such as Battle Mountain Sanitarium in Hot Springs, S.D., that once served Civil War veterans. But others, such as a former quartermaster’s office in Minneapolis, have sat idle for years and languished.


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