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Sen. Rounds introduces legislation to end AIR Commission

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Mike Rounds

Sen. Mike Rounds

U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds, R-SD, and Joe Manchin, D-WV, reintroduced a bill Tuesday to repeal the Veterans Administration Asset and Infrastructure Review Act of 2018.

The bill, which was originally introduced in 2019 and could be cited as the "Elimination of the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission Act of 2022," would eliminate the 2018 act that was passed to establish a new process for the development, review, approval and implementation of recommendations to modernize and realign Veterans Health Affairs medical facilities.

VA and VISN 23 officials announced in March that services in Fort Meade and Hot Springs could be reduced and transferred to a new facility in Rapid City. Additional closures could impact the Sioux Falls VA Emergency Room and a clinic in Wagner.

Rounds said in a press release that the VA MISSION Act and its BRAC-style process were bad public policy in 2018 and have not improved with age.

"The AIR Commission should be called the ERROR Commission," Rounds said. "Now that the consequences of the VA MISSION Act are being widely experienced, more members are joining our efforts to stop it. I will continue working to make certain veterans in South Dakota receive the care they have earned.”

Rounds and Manchin were joined by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV, Martin Heinrich, D-NM, John Thune, R-SD, Maggie Hassan, D-NH, and Ben Ray Lujan, D-NM.

Thune said in a press release that the VA's process of developing its recommendations relied on "faulty and limited assessments" based on bad information.

"We cannot let the VA extinguish the important progress we have made to protect our VA facilities, which is why I will continue to fight tooth and nail against any proposals that seek to blindly reduce veterans' access to care in our state," he said.

Rounds and Manchin originally introduced the legislation to eliminate the AIR Commission in 2019. The AIR Commission is a panel comprised of nine members nominated by the president and approved by the Senate. The commission is meant to review the recommendations submitted by the VA secretary.

However, the commission does not exist yet as all of the nominees have yet to be assessed by the Senate Committee on Veteran's Affairs and voted on by the full Senate.

Once formed, the AIR Commission would be required to submit the final list of recommendations to the president by Jan. 31, 2023.

— Contact Siandhara Bonnet at siandhara.bonnet@rapidcityjournal.com

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