Department of Veterans Affairs Major Medical Facility Lease Authorization Act of 2013by Representative Paul Ryan
Posted on 2013-12-10
RYAN of Wisconsin. Mr. Speaker, today, the House will consider
H.R. 3521, the Department of Veterans Affairs Major Medical Facility
Lease Authorization Act of 2013, as Amended. H.R. 3521 authorizes the
Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out major medical facility
leases at twenty-seven facilities requested by the Department of
Veterans Affairs in their fiscal year 2013 and 2014 budget requests.
Since 1990, CBO has scored VA's major medical facility leases as operating leases and estimated the costs as being subject to appropriation (discretionary). In 2012, after receiving additional information from the Department of Veterans Affairs, CBO concluded that VA has been entering into capital leases, or binding obligations for the full period of the lease. In accordance with OMB Circular A-11 and the Anti-Deficiency Act, VA is required to obligate the budget authority upfront for the full amount of these obligations. This includes budgeting for both the estimated total payments expected to arise under the full term of the contract or, if the contract includes a cancellation clause, an amount sufficient to cover the lease payments for the first year plus an amount sufficient to cover the costs associated with termination of the contract. Up until this point, VA has not been properly budgeting for its leases according to the law.
CBO estimates that enacting this bill would provide contract authority of about $1.4 billion over the ten-year period.
HBC has worked closely with both HVAC and CBO on this issue and has produced lease authorization language, in addition to report language, that we believe adequately addresses the legitimate issues CBO raised with respect to how VA was budgeting for leases.
HBC believes this language forces VA to comply with budgeting laws, specifically that VA may only enter into binding commitments on behalf of the U.S. Government once funds have been appropriated for the purpose of that proposed commitment and that VA must then obligate the full cost of that commitment at the time it executes the lease. In addition, the language requires VA to submit to Congress a detailed analysis on how its leasing practices comply with these laws.
If the VA fails to faithfully execute the requirements in the bill and to comply with the longstanding laws governing obligations, we will revisit this issue in the context of future requests for leasing authority.
With these fiscal protections in place, I fully support H.R. 3521 moving forward to ensure continued access for our veterans to the highest quality medical care.
Mr. GINGREY of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 3521, the Department of Veterans Affairs Major Medical Facility Lease Authorization Act, introduced by my good friend and Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Mr. Miller. This legislation authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out major medical facility leases at twenty seven facilities--including a facility in Cobb County, Georgia--that were requested by the Department of Veterans Affairs in their 2013 and 2014 budget submissions.
A change in Congressional Budget Office (CBO) accounting methods made the reauthorization of these leases very difficult, but this important legislation will allow authorization while increasing transparency.
This legislation, however, is about so much more than leases and definitional changes. This legislation is about ensuring the care of our veterans, and paying them the debt of gratitude we owe them.
The VA facility in Cobb County served 6,634 unique patients outpatients in Fiscal Year 2013, providing services in outpatient treatment, mental health, and lab work. These services are critical, provide convenience, and reduce driving time for veterans, many of whom would otherwise be forced to travel 70 miles or more round-trip to visit the overcrowded Atlanta VA Medical Center. With passage of the legislation before us today, the VA could authorize a lease for an expanded facility in Cobb County, one that would serve an estimated 64,000 veterans and provide more access to a greater variety of care. While mental health services, lab work, and outpatient treatment would still be provided, the expanded facility is intended to have the capability to provide eye care, physical and occupational therapy, radiology, and more.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation is a way forward for that facility and several more like it across the country. It seeks to expand access to care for veterans, not bureaucratic federal policies.
Our men and women in uniform--who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms--deserve the best care that we can give them. They deserve quality care that is convenient and accessible. This legislation provides us with an opportunity today to show our veterans that we are committed to those goals. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 3521.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Miller) that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 3521, as amended.
The question was taken.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds being in the affirmative, the ayes have it.