By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan includes $ 18 billion to upgrade and replace aging Veterans’ hospitals, but the agency needs five times that amount to strengthening facilities and health workers, a Democrat lawmaker said on Thursday.
Mark Takano, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told reporters the initial funding was substantial but said he hopes the president’s next legislative push will help fill full of great doctor shortage.
“There is still an urgent need to support VA recruiting,” Takano told reporters on a video conference. “With over 39,000 vacancies, it’s important that we do more to promote hiring at VA.”
Takano says the total amount needed is much higher than the amount stated in the Democratic president’s $ 2.3 trillion infrastructure bill, but he is optimistic that there is enormous support. of the public for upgrading and replacing existing existing facilities.
Veterans Affairs Minister Denis McDonough told videoconference that funding in an infrastructure bill as “just upfront” would help replace 10 or 12 of the 30 required facilities, but he did not have an immediate estimate of the total investment required.
VA’s 1,700 hospitals, clinics and medical facilities have an average age of 58 years, compared with just 11 years for private hospitals in the United States, he said, noting that 69 percent of hospitals VA is over 50 years old.
“The lack of modern infrastructure really limits our ability to meet veterans’ growing health care needs,” said McDonough, adding that cost savings VA maintenance has nearly doubled to more than $ 22 billion by 2020 from $ 11.6 billion in 2010.
He said VA also benefited from funds in Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 bailout and his proposed budget, which would increase VA’s base budget by 8. , 2% in fiscal 2022.
The infrastructure package, which must be approved by Congress, will also help about 200,000 veterans leave the military each year into civilian work, officials said, while increasing funding to help 2.5 million. A small business owned by a veteran.
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