Manchin: Veterans Affairs AIR Commission will not move forward

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) says he and colleagues in the U.S. Senate will use a procedural move to stop a commission from recommending a cut in medical services at Veterans Affairs facilities in West Virginia.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (File)

Manchin made an announcement Monday on the state Capitol Complex in Charleston, saying the proposed cuts to the Huntington, Clarksburg and Beckley centers will not happen. He said his bipartisan group of senators have compromised to kill the AIR Act by not appointing committee members.

“We have democrats and republicans rising up and saying ‘it’s over.’ We’re not going to confirm anybody and we’re going to kill it,” Manchin told reporters.

An Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on March 14 included recommendations to modernize facilities and realign priorities. The commission would have been tasked to review those recommendations.

Ted Diaz, the veterans assistance secretary for the State of West Virginia stood with Manchin on Monday. In April, Diaz raised concerns about the proposed plans. As previously reported by MetroNews, Diaz said the recommendations, as proposed, would move services now provided by VA facilities in West Virginia to VA facilities in states, requiring veterans to travel across several states for long-term care. Those would include services such as emergency rooms, spinal cord injuries/disorders and blindness rehabilitation.

Under the proposed plan, the agency would close about three dozen VA medical centers, replacing but about half of them with new construction. The VA would permanently close the other half, shifting veteran care to local VA inpatient and outpatient facilities, MetroNews reported.

Manchin said on Monday the proposed cuts aren’t needed and critical services should be here to stay.

“We’re having more geo-political unrest around the world that will demand more of our West Virginians to be alert and ready and put in parts of the world in harm’s way. I want to make sure we can serve them and they know we can serve them when they come back,” the senator said.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. (U.S. Senate Photography)

Manchin was joined by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Thune (R-SD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Patty Murray (D-WA), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

In a separate appearance in Kanawha County Monday, Capito said she is thrilled with this news.

“I talked to the Secretary of VA when he was in front of the Appropriations Committee and I said ‘you can’t do this to our West Virginia veterans.’ We were successful. That is no longer hanging over our heads,” she said.

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