September 19, 2019
Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King announced that the Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded a lease contract for a new Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Portland. The facility will alleviate space and utilization gaps at Togus VA Medical Center and provide an expanded offering of VA outpatient services to the overall veteran population. The lease, which was awarded to FDS JBB Portland, LLC., was authorized as part of the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017, which Senators Collins and King cosponsored.
More than two dozen CBOCs, including Portland, have been fully funded by Congress, but their authorization was delayed due to a budgetary technicality. The Congressional Budget Office scored these leases as having large, up-front direct costs even though spending would not increase and the leases are subject to annual appropriations. As a result of this scoring issue, Congress had difficulty authorizing major medical leases. Senators Collins and King helped lead a bipartisan push to allow the lease for the Portland CBOC and more than two dozen CBOCs across the country to move forward.
“Veterans deserve convenient access to the high-quality health care that they have earned through their service. CBOCs provide an essential service to our veterans by allowing them to receive outpatient care without the stress and difficulty of traveling to larger VA medical centers, which may be located far away from veterans’ homes,” said Senator Collins. “As a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the VA, I helped lead a bipartisan effort to address the extensive delays in authorizing VA medical facility leases such as the CBOC in Portland. I am pleased that the lease awarded today will soon allow the Portland CBOC to begin serving our veterans.”
“Today’s announcement is welcome news for Maine veterans, who have stepped up to defend our nation and deserve our care and support in return,” said Senator King. “Maine has among the highest number of veterans per capita in the nation, and for the many veterans who live and work in the greater Portland area, this new facility will help improve access to care right in their community. Maine people understand our responsibility to care for our heroes, and by expanding services that are specially equipped to deal with the needs of our veteran population, we can help these men and women get the high-quality, accessible healthcare they have earned.”
The new facility will consolidate the existing Saco and Portland CBOCs and enhance VA outpatient services. The lease will increase veterans’ access to a core set of services and additional specialty care in a state-of-the-art, energy-efficient health care facility. The planned full deployment of tele-medicine technologies in the new clinic will also further improve veterans’ access to care in rural locations throughout Maine.
In addition to securing funding for the Portland CBOC, Senator Collins, a senior member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, included language in the Appropriations Committee’s report on the FY18 MilCon-VA Appropriations Bill, which urged the VA to continue working with Congress and the Office of Management and Budget to identify a long-term solution to budgetary challenges that caused extensive delays in authorizing VA medical facility leases.
Senators Collins and King worked closely with a bipartisan group of their colleagues to authorize these VA leases. In July 2017, Senators Collins and King, along with Senator Warner, wrote to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee requesting it include the leases for 27 VA medical facilities, including the CBOC in Portland, in the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act of 2017. In May 2017, the entire Maine delegation wrote to then-VA Secretary David Shulkin and Director of Office and Budget Management Mick Mulvaney to urge the administration to help authorize the leases. In January 2017, the Maine Senators also reintroduced the bipartisan Providing Veterans Overdue Care Act, legislation that would authorize pending leases for 24 VA medical facilities.