Stabenow, Peters join push for medical facility funding

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, are joining a bipartisan group of 13 senators to urge the authorization of $904 million to fund leases for 18 medical facilities in 12 states, including two in Michigan.

The senators said the funding has been been held up by “a technical change in the way the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the cost of these leases” that has “stymied efforts to authorize any VA major medical facility leases.

“These lease authorizations are needed to enable the VA to deliver care and services to veterans across the United States,” the senators wrote in the letter to the top-ranking Republican and Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“As such, we ask that you act swiftly to authorize these pending leases until a more permanent solution to the issue can be found,” they continued. “Inaction on this issue hampers the ability of veterans in our states to access timely and quality care from the VA.”

The facilities that would be financed under the proposal include a new 145,000-square-foot outpatient clinic in Ann Arbor and a 37,619-square-foot outpatient clinic in Pontiac that would replace an existing facility there. Other facilities are located in states such as New York, Texas and Indiana.

Stabenow and Peters’ offices said Wednesday “the two new Michigan facilities will expand services and reduce congestion and wait times for Michigan veterans seeking VA health care.”

The lawmakers said current law prohibits the Veterans’ Affairs department from signing leases for the new facilities without additional congressional approval.

“Under current law, the VA must receive specific legislative authorization to lease medical facilities with average annual rental payments in excess of $1 million,” the senators wrote.

The lawmakers blamed the problem on a “scorekeeping issue” that has resulted in the CBO counting the the cost of leases over the life of the agreements on its initial assessment of the deals.

They said the Senate should “act swiftly to authorize these pending leases until a more permanent solution to the issue can be found.”

Stabenow and Peters were joined in signing the letter by Sens. Mark Warner D-Va.; Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Tim Kaine, D-Va.; Angus King, I-Maine; Ed Markey, D-Mass.; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; Chuck Schumer; D-N.Y.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

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Twitter: @Keith_Laing