The V.A. Needs $2-Trillion To Update Its Antiquated Hospitals…but Is This the Right Approach?

Jonathan Weiss/

Some U.S. veterans sing praises to the Veteran Administration’s health care system while others view V.A. medical facilities as hellish dungeons with second-rate services. It’s hit or miss. More often than not though, it isn’t the facility’s leaders or individual employees who determine whether their place of employment gets a good or a bad rap. It’s more a direct result of what they have to work with.

The majority of V.A. medical facilities were built immediately following WWII and can barely if at all keep up with 21st century standards. This, coupled with the aging Viet Nam veteran population of which there are many thanks to the military draft, is overwhelming the antiquated and generally short-staffed facilities.

Attempting to provide up-to-date 21st-century medical services in crumbling antiquated buildings that weren’t designed to accommodate new technologies, isn’t working. It requires billions of dollars year after year after yes to keep these facilities operational, even to a lesser degree than what’s actually needed.   

The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes the worsening problem and just took a major leap in trying to fix their broken and outdated health care system. They completed an Asset and Infrastructure Review, or AIR, as mandated by Congress in determining what it’s gonna take to get V.A. medical facilities up to snuff over the next few years. 

V.A. facilities need to meet the needs of veterans living in this century, not the last one. Out of the V.A.s 171 hospitals, they’ve recommended that at least 35 of them be either shut down permanently and demolished, or be rebuilt from the ground up.

Their plan calls for the construction of 140 new community-based outpatient clinics to keep veterans from having to drive excessive distances for non-emergency care, in addition to the ones already in place.

Mental health problems not recognized in years past have put the V.A. far short of its goal of reducing veteran suicides. The numbers have remained stagnant over the past several years although some claim they’re increasing. The V.A. plans to massively expand this area with larger dedicated facilities and additional staff. 

In the private sector, a hospital’s average age is 8.5 years. It’s around this age when a hospital will undergo an entire updated renovation or ground will be broken to build a new one. The average V.A. facility is 60 years old and has undergone no such renovation, ever. 

None of this is going to come cheap. The estimated cost of the program is $2 trillion as it stands now but it’s anticipated to well exceed that amount before all is said is done. This includes all-new state-of-the-art equipment for every V.A. hospital.

Not everyone views this expenditure as the best alternative. The V.A.s Community Care Program has proven successful in referring veterans to private doctors located closer to where the veteran lives so they end up seeing the same doctors as their non-veteran counterparts. They also receive the identical quality of care and can often select who they wish to see. 

Perhaps it’s time to end the era of dedicated veteran medical facilities and give our warriors the privilege of seeing a doctor just down the street? Or be admitted to a local hospital that’s already up to date and known for its excellent care? Why make them drive two hours for an x-ray or to have their hearing checked? 

Which way do you think would be better not only from a financial standpoint but for providing America’s veterans with the type of healthcare they’ve earned and deserve?