Congresswoman Pingree at the opening of the VA Clinic in Portland in 2011.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is leading a bipartisan effort to expedite the approval of a lease to significantly expand a VA outpatient clinic in Portland.
The leases in Portland and at 17 other VA facilities around the country need Congressional approval, but bureaucratic rules about how those leases are valued has slowed the process.
Pingree wrote a letter to the top Republican and Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee urging them to “move forward in authorizing the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) major medical facility leases currently pending before Congress.” Pingree, joined by both Democratic and Republican colleagues, told the Committee that "these 18 outstanding leases must be authorized by whatever means possible, without delay, to ensure that our veterans are provided the care that our country has promised them."
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.
The proposed expansion at the Portland Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) would be over 50,000 square feet and allow veterans access to many services not currently offered in southern Maine.
Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King organized a similar effort in the Senate earlier this summer.