May 24, 2022

News Release from Senator Mike Rounds:

Rounds and Manchin Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Eliminate the VA AIR Commission

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reintroduced the Elimination of the VA Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission Act, which would eliminate the commission that is tasked with finding facilities that should be consolidated or realigned.

“The VA MISSION Act and its BRAC-style process called the AIR Commission were bad public policy when I voted against them in 2018, and they have not improved with age,” said Rounds. “This legislation threatens to close or eliminate services at VA facilities across South Dakota and the nation. The AIR Commission should be called the ERROR Commission. Senator Manchin and I first introduced common sense legislation to eliminate this commission in 2019. Now that the consequences of the VA MISSION Act are being widely experienced, more members are joining our efforts to stop it. I will continue working to make certain veterans in South Dakota receive the care they have earned.”

“Our Veterans have put their lives on the line to protect our nation and deserve easy access to the healthcare they have earned,” said Manchin. “The VA’s recommendations to the AIR Commission are skewed against rural states like West Virginia, which would see a reduction in services at three of our four VA Medical Centers (VAMCs). I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to ensure our brave Veterans don’t lose access to the healthcare they earned and sacrificed for and I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join this critical legislation.”

Rounds and Manchin were joined by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).

Background:

  • In 2018, Congress passed the Asset and Infrastructure Review Act as part of the VA MISSION Act.
  • Rounds and Manchin introduced legislation in 2019, which would have eliminated the AIR Commission.
  • The VA MISSION Act established a new process for the development, review, approval and implementation of a list of recommendations for the modernization and realignment of VHA medical facilities. The VA MISSION Act requires the VA Secretary to develop an initial list of recommendations, including the acquisition of new space, the modernization of existing space and the disposal of unneeded space. The Secretary was required to publish these recommendations in the Federal Register by January 31, 2022.
  • The VA MISSION Act also established an AIR Commission, a panel comprised of nine members nominated by the president and approved by the Senate, which is meant to review the recommendations submitted by the VA Secretary.
  • However, the panel does not yet exist as all of the nominees have yet to be assessed by the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and voted on by the full Senate.
  • Once it is stood up and receives the department’s recommendations, the commission will conduct its own hearings and investigations, make its own recommendations and send the recommendations to the White House.
  • The AIR Commission is required to submit a final list of recommendations to the president by January 31, 2023.
  • President Biden is to notify the commission and Congress if he approves or disapproves the list by February 15, 2023. If disapproved, the commission may revise the recommendations and submit a new list by March 15, 2023.
  • The president has until March 30, 2023, to approve the commission’s initial or revised recommendations in their entirety and submit them to Congress, or the modernization and realignment process terminates.
  • If the president approves the recommendations, Congress has 45 days from the date of approval to terminate the process by enacting a joint resolution of disapproval. If Congress does not enact a joint resolution of disapproval, the VA is required to implement the recommendations.

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May 16, 2022

Cadet Kaleigh Teague wins MOAA Leadership Award

JROTC Cadet Kaleigh Teague, a Junior  at Rapid City Central High School,  was presented with the MOAA Leadership Award on Friday, May 13, "her lucky day." But luck had nothing to do with it.  Cadet Teague earned the MOAA award for demonstrating "exceptional potential for military leadership," among other requirements.

The medal and certificate were presented by CDR Larry Miller, President of the Black Hills Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).

To be considered for the award, candidates must be in the upper 10 percent of his/her high school class,  be of high moral character, demonstrate a high degree of loyalty to the unit, school, and country.

Several family members were on hand for the ceremony, including her parents, Pat and Michael Teague – as well as her grandparents, Pat and Richard Salkeld.

The Leadership Medal was pinned on Cadet Teague by 1st Sergeant Ryan Wheele of the JROTC faculty.  That photo and certificate presentation are on our Activities Page.

Our congratulations to Cadet Teague for her leadership within the Rapid City Central High School JROTC program!