In response to the aging of its outdated medical facilities, the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently approved a plan that proposes more than $5 billion in construction and renovation over the next several years and the reduction of under-used existing facilities space. VA secretary Anthony J. Principi announced the plan's approval on May 7 and said that the department “now stands ready to bring greater access to quality care closer to where most veterans live.” Millions of veterans have moved to the South, West, and Southwest regions of the country, and as a result, many of the existing facilities are located where veterans formerly lived as opposed to where they currently live. The plan entails the construction of new medical centers in Orlando and Las Vegas, as well as four new facilities for spinal cord injuries, and two centers for rehabilitation for blind patients in other locations. The plan also includes creating 156 new community health-care clinics in an effort to follow the trend of outpatient care. It's now up to Congressional appropriations committees to decide how much money the VA will get to implement its plan. Principi says the department will seek about $1 billion in each of the next several years of the program.

Rep. James Walsh, chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the VA's budget, is positive about the VA decision, saying, “This effort will strengthen our veteran health-care network nationwide, especially in rural areas.”