McGovern bill defunding VA closure commission clears House

  • U.S. Rep Jim McGovern speaking at the rededication ceremony of Whately's Veterans Memorial. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/25/2022 4:44:27 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Local veterans were relieved earlier this month when a bipartisan group of U.S. senators effectively dismantled the federal commission tasked with reviewing the proposed closure of Veterans Affairs facilities including Northampton’s VA Medical Center.

Now, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, is trying to put another nail in that commission’s coffin.

Last week, McGovern successfully added an amendment to a VA funding bill that would entirely defund the $5 million budget of the federal Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, which was supposed to review the VA’s list of recommended closures and other changes to VA medical care. Instead, that money would go to helping veterans experiencing homelessness.

McGovern’s bill passed 238 to 191 in the U.S. House, and now heads to the U.S. Senate.

In a speech on the House floor last week, McGovern asked fellow representatives to transfer the commission’s $5 million to the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Program. He noted that the recommendations before the AIR Commission would close or downsize one-third of VA medical facilities and community-based outpatient clinics.

“I believe that is unacceptable and frankly a rotten way to treat veterans who put their lives on the line for this country,” McGovern said.

The AIR Commission has already been dismantled by a group of senators who announced that they would not approve any nominees to the commission, depriving it of members to do its work.

In 2018, Congress and President Donald Trump signed the VA MISSION Act, which required the VA to come up with a list of recommendations to “modernize” its medical facilities and health care delivery. Those recommendations included the privatization and downsizing of some services and the closure of three facilities: those in Northampton, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Chillicothe, Ohio.

The AIR Commission, whose members would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, was then charged with analyzing those recommendations before reporting its findings to the president, who could present them to Congress for a vote.

With no members to perform its work, the AIR Commission’s future was already in question. Now, McGovern is hoping that it won’t have any budget to do its work, either.

In his speech before the House, McGovern said that the recommendations before the AIR Commission were based on flawed data that didn’t take into account the significant money the federal government had invested in upgrades to the Leeds medical center and other such facilities.

“Talk about ripping off the American taxpayer. The data that they use is from years ago,” McGovern said. “This is the definition of stupid. We might as well throw taxpayer money out the window if these flawed recommendations move forward.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at
Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Valley Advocate Newsletter
Daily Hampshire Gazette Dining & Entertainment


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy