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Home Working with Section 106 ACHP Case Digest Summer 2004 Nationwide: Implementation of the Department of Veterans Affairs CARES Plan
Nationwide: Implementation of the Department of Veterans Affairs CARES Plan
Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
In May 2004, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi approved a comprehensive plan to modernize the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system.
Soldiers Home Chapel, Central Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, VA Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio (photo courtesy of the American Veterans Heritage Center, Inc.)
This plan will bring our World War II vintage infrastructure up to modern standards, Principi said. It will provide the physical environment that will allow VA health care workers to perform at their best, providing quality care where needs are greatest.
The plan, known as Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES), has the potential to affect many medical facilities and complexes listed in and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Approximately 40 percent of the VAs medical centers are historic districts and contain more than 1,900 historic structures. In addition a large number of properties are individually listed in or eligible for the National Register, including 119 cemeteries.
Although the draft bills currently reside in the House and the Senate that implement the CARES plan, the plans implementation has not yet been coordinated with the ACHP and other historic preservation stakeholders.
As written, the proposed bills might encourage the VA to demolish or unilaterally transfer properties without having the benefit of input from other agencies experienced in such activities, including the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. General Services Administration.
In addition, the draft bills indicate that maintenance and repair funds are being allocated to prepare properties for disposal rather than preservation. Finally, the proposed bills say little about new construction, a major project activity that could affect historic properties.
In 2003, while the VA was developing the CARES plan, ACHP member and Augusta, Georgia, mayor Bob Young testified at a CARES Commission hearing about a medical facility in his city that was proposed to be closed under the plan.
In June 2004, ACHP Chairman John Nau spoke on the draft CARES bills at a legislative hearing held by the Congressional Committee on Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health.
During his testimony, Nau noted the ACHPs strong support for Congressman Michael Turners proposed Veterans National Heritage Preservation Act, which would provide for the thoughtful stewardship of the VAs premier heritage assets.
The VAs Soldiers Home Chapel in Dayton, Ohio, is a compelling example of the need to integrate historic preservation into VAs functioning. The chapel was built in 1870 by Civil War veterans who lived at the facility, who used limestone quarried from the facilitys grounds. The structure is also the first permanent chapel ever built by the Federal Government.
Nau advised the subcommittee that a properly crafted process can 1) encourage the transfer of historic properties when the new owners are committed to a long-term preservation strategy; 2) minimize neglect while properties await disposition; 3) promote partnerships for creative use or cooperative management arrangements; and 4) effectively involve the local community in reuse strategies that promote economic development.
By being proactive, the ACHP hopes that it can develop a strategy with
the VA for overseeing the CARES plan that is consistent with the goals
of the National Historic Preservation Act and the Preserve America initiative,
and that provides partnership opportunities that will preserverather
than demolishexcess and underused historic resources.
Staff contacts: Charlene Vaughn and Martha Catlin
Posted August 8, 2004
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