July 2017

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June 20, 2017

VA Announces Plan to Dispose Of Or Reuse All Its Vacant Buildings in 24 Months Move Projected to Save Taxpayers Millions Annually

WASHINGTON — Following through on a key promise from less than a month ago, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin today announced a plan to dispose of all vacant VA buildings in 24 months (either by demolishing or setting for reuse). Dr. Shulkin had raised the vacant building issue as a priority in his “State of the VA” address delivered at the White House on May 31. Nationwide, VA currently has 430 vacant or mostly vacant buildings that are on average more than 60 years old, and cost taxpayers more than $7 million per year to maintain. Today Dr. Shulkin announced that, of those 430 buildings, VA has begun disposal or reuse processes on 71. Of the remaining 359 buildings, Dr. Shulkin announced VA will begin disposal or reuse processes on another 71 in the next six months, and plans to initiate disposal of the final 288 vacant buildings within 24 months. “We owe it to the American taxpayer to apply as much of our funding as possible to helping Veterans,” said Dr. Shulkin. “Maintaining vacant buildings, including close to 100 from the Revolutionary War and Civil War, makes no sense and we’re working as quickly as possible to get them out of our inventory.” The Secretary also announced that VA will review another 784 non-vacant, but underutilized, buildings to determine if additional efficiencies can be identified to be reinvested in Veterans’ services. Finally, in addition to the building closure, Dr. Shulkin announced today that the Veterans Benefits Administration is freezing its footprint and will maximize space management by leasing or eliminating office space nationwide, thanks to a robust telework program and the digitization of claim files. VA estimates these actions will save taxpayers an additional $15.7 million annually beginning in 2017, for a total of close to $23 million in combined annual savings from the initiatives. “As I said in my State of the VA presentation, we need to move rapidly to bring savings to taxpayers,” said Dr. Shulkin. “We will work through the legal requirements and regulations for disposal and reuse and we will do it as swiftly as possible.

June 30, 2017

VA Secretary Shulkin unveils world’s most advanced commercial prosthesis Veterans are first to receive the technology

NEW YORK —Today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David J. Shulkin, M.D. unveiled the world’s most advanced commercial prosthetic — the Life Under Kinetic Evolution (LUKE) arm — during a visit to the VA New York Harbor Health Care System’s Manhattan campus. The event also included a demonstration of the technology by the first Veteran amputees to receive the device. A collaboration between VA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and industry, the LUKE Arm is the product of nearly eight years of testing and research, and holds the potential to significantly benefit Veterans and others with upper-extremity amputations. Unlike less-advanced prosthetics, the entire LUKE arm can move as one unit, reducing the labor-intensive process of controlling one joint at a time. The LUKE arm also features the first commercially available powered shoulder, with up to 10 powered degrees of freedom. Simply stated, the LUKE arm will help restore Veterans’ ability to perform a variety of one and two-handed activities. With accompanying rehabilitation, recipients can use the LUKE arm to perform tasks, such as drinking from a glass, picking up small pieces of food to eat, cooking or gift-wrapping presents. “The LUKE arm is a shining example of why VA exists,” Secretary Shulkin said. “There is no commercial market for this type of technology. The patient population is simply too small to motivate private companies to pursue these types of advancements on their own. This is why VA and its research efforts – efforts that could not be replicated in the private sector – are so important.” Fred Downs and Artie McAuley are the first Veterans to receive the LUKE arm. “The LUKE arm is a great tool, especially for high-level amputees like me,” McAuley said. “I’m amazed by the technology, and the level of flexibility and full range of motion, which allows me to do much more independently.” Fred Downs added, “The technology has definitely been an improvement in my ability to perform day to day activities, most notably in grasping. It’s useful when an opposing hand is needed, in the workshop or while cooking.” In fiscal year 2016, VA provided care for nearly 90,000 Veterans with amputations, more than 20,000 of whom had upper-limb involvement.