Pingree, Poliquin Insert Provision to Veterans CHOICE Bill to Authorize Lease for Portland VA Health Clinic, Which Has Been Stalled Due to Technicalities
WASHINGTON — Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01) and Congressman Bruce Poliquin (ME-02), a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, have inserted a provision to a bill to extend funding for the rural Veterans CHOICE program for six months that passed the House today, to authorize the lease for the new Portland VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), as well as several other VA facilities around the country. Because of technicalities in the way the leases are approved, work on the expansion in Portland has been delayed, impacting Veterans’ care.
“I’m thrilled that the House has approved the much-needed and long-delayed expansion of the Portland Community Based Outpatient Clinic and others across the country. It will allow Southern Maine veterans to access a wider array of services without having to drive an hour or more to get them,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “Maine’s Delegation has been united in its efforts to authorize these leases and I’m hopeful that our goal is finally in sight.”
“Any hurdle getting in the way of our Veterans receiving the best and most timely care possible is unacceptable,” said Congressman Poliquin. “Our provision will give our Maine Veterans a new Community Based Outreach Center where they will be able to seek medical and mental health care and allow them to receive better care, closer to home. I’m very pleased and proud to work with my colleague Chellie Pingree in securing this language to help ensure our Maine Veterans are not left without the support they deserve.”
At issue is the lease for a 50,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility for a CBOC in Portland. Under current law, Congress must authorize VA medical facility leases with average annual rental payments in excess of $1 million. Beginning in 2012, the Congressional Budget Office began assessing the cost of all VA clinics based on the total obligation for the life of the lease rather than the annual payment. This makes the leases appear much more expensive than they really are and has delayed their authorization.
Last Congress, the Maine representatives introduced legislation to direct the approval of the lease for the Portland VA health clinic, as well as leases at 23 other VA facilities around the country.
VIDEO: View Congresswoman Pingree’s remarks here: https://youtu.be/h90A-Eey0y0
VIDEO: View Congressman Poliquin’s remarks here: https://bit.ly/2u5kPgr