oversight

VA Health Care: Improved Planning Needed for Management of Excess Real Property

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-01-29.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

               United States General Accounting Office

GAO            Report to the Honorable John D.
               Rockefeller IV, U.S. Senate



January 2003
               VA HEALTH CARE

               Improved Planning
               Needed for
               Management of
               Excess Real Property




GAO-03-326
                                               January 2003


                                               VA HEALTH CARE

                                               Improved Planning Needed for
Highlights of GAO-03-326, a report to the      Management of Excess Real Property
Honorable John D. Rockefeller IV, U.S.
Senate




The Department of Veterans Affairs             The Great Lakes network has developed or implemented alternative use or
(VA) has changed from a hospital-              disposal plans for 21 of the 30 unneeded, vacant buildings. VA has leased 10
based system to primary reliance on            of the buildings to the Chicago Medical School and is negotiating a lease for
outpatient care. As a result, VA               3 buildings with Catholic Charities of Chicago. Four buildings were
expects that the number of                     demolished, and 4 buildings will be demolished in order to construct new
unneeded buildings will increase.
Veterans’ needs could be better
                                               facilities or to expand an existing cemetery.
served if VA finds ways to minimize
resources devoted to these                     The network identified three obstacles that hinder alternative use or
buildings. VA must have an                     planning for the remaining buildings:
effective process to find alternate
uses or dispose of unneeded                    •     VA has been unable to find organizations interested in using the vacant,
property. In August 2002, VA                         unneeded buildings due primarily to their location or physical condition.
completed a pilot test for realigning
its health care system in the Great            •     VA may spend more to demolish buildings than it would spend to
Lakes network. The pilot identified                  maintain the buildings as is.
30 buildings that are no longer
needed to provide health care to
veterans. VA is currently studying
                                               •     VA is reluctant to transfer disposal responsibility for the buildings to the
how to realign assets in its 20                      General Services Administration, primarily because (1) VA would incur
remaining networks. GAO was                          costs for environmental and other requirements that could exceed
asked to review VA’s management                      potential savings through avoidance of routine maintenance costs, and
of unneeded buildings in its Great                   (2) any proceeds may only be used for the construction of VA nursing
Lakes network.                                       homes.



GAO recommends that the
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
conduct a pilot test in the Great
Lakes network of its newly
developed model for managing
vacant buildings and make
modifications, if needed, to ensure
that it will provide an effective
decision-making tool that could be
used in the remaining networks.
VA concurred with this
recommendation.




                                               Source: VA.

www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-326.
                                               Vacant building at the health care facility in Milwaukee, Wis., for which the Great Lakes network has
To view the full report, including the scope   no alternate use or disposal plan.
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Cynthia A.
Bascetta at (202) 512-7101.
Contents


Letter                                                                                      1
              Results in Brief                                                              2
              Background                                                                    3
              VA’s Management of 30 Vacant Buildings in Its Great Lakes
                Network                                                                     6
              Obstacles to Alternate Use or Disposal of 9 Vacant Buildings                  7
              Conclusions                                                                   9
              Recommendation for Executive Action                                           9
              Agency Comments                                                               9

Appendix I    Scope and Methodology                                                       11



Appendix II   Comments from the Department of Veterans
              Affairs                                                                     12




              Abbreviations

              CARES         Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services
              GSA           General Services Administration
              VA            Department of Veterans Affairs




              Page i                       GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   January 29, 2003

                                   The Honorable John D. Rockefeller IV
                                   United States Senate

                                   Dear Senator Rockefeller:

                                   The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operates one of our nation’s
                                   largest health care delivery systems, comprising 21 health care delivery
                                   networks that operate and maintain over 4,700 buildings. Over the past
                                   decade, VA’s system has undergone a dramatic transformation, shifting
                                   from predominantly hospital-based care to primary reliance on
                                   community-based VA and non-VA providers for a full continuum of health
                                   care delivered largely on an outpatient basis. As a result, vacant and
                                   underutilized buildings at VA’s inpatient locations have become more
                                   common.

                                   Because the cost to operate and maintain these underutilized and vacant
                                   buildings consumes resources that could otherwise be used to provide
                                   health care services for veterans,1 VA initiated its Capital Asset
                                   Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) process. Under CARES, VA’s
                                   Undersecretary for Health has directed networks to develop asset-
                                   restructuring plans to guide future capital investment decisions that would
                                   involve constructing new facilities or renovating or closing existing ones
                                   for the purpose of delivering health care more efficiently in existing
                                   locations or closer to where veterans live.

                                   Through CARES, VA plans to develop a nationwide strategic plan that
                                   identifies capital assets needed to meet veterans’ health care needs, as
                                   well as those assets that are no longer needed. In August 2002, VA
                                   announced the results of its CARES pilot test—a plan to realign capital
                                   assets to improve health care delivery in its Great Lakes network. This
                                   plan described how VA intends to restructure its inpatient facilities as well
                                   as open new outpatient clinics in community settings to provide health


                                   1
                                    U.S. General Accounting Office, VA Health Care: Capital Asset Planning and Budgeting
                                   Need Improvement, GAO/T-HEHS-99-83 (Washington D.C.: Mar.10, 1999), VA Health Care:
                                   Challenges Facing VA in Developing an Asset Realignment Process, GAO/T-HEHS-99-173
                                   (Washington D.C.: July 22 1999), and VA Health Care: Improvements Needed in Capital
                                   Asset Planning and Budgeting, GAO/HEHS-99-145 (Washington D.C.: Aug. 13, 1999).



                                   Page 1                           GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
                   care to veterans. Also, VA identified 30 vacant buildings that are no longer
                   needed to meet veterans’ health care needs.2

                   Currently VA is conducting CARES studies in its 20 other health care
                   networks. VA’s goal is to make realignment decisions by October 2003, and
                   it expects that many additional buildings will be considered excess, given
                   its extensive inventory of buildings nationwide. As such, timely disposal or
                   alternate use of excess buildings could play a critical role in VA’s
                   realignment efforts by avoiding maintenance costs or generating revenue
                   to enhance services for veterans such as financing needed renovations to
                   existing buildings.

                   In your capacity as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’
                   Affairs, you asked us to review VA’s management of vacant buildings in
                   the Great Lakes CARES pilot to better understand the potential
                   implications of excess property for the entire CARES process.
                   Accordingly, we assessed the Great Lakes Network’s efforts to develop
                   alternate use or disposal plans for vacant buildings and identified
                   obstacles that hinder effective management.

                   To conduct our work, we visited medical facilities in the Great Lakes
                   network, where we also did physical inspections of vacant buildings. We
                   reviewed documents related to the 30 vacant buildings, as well as the
                   network’s plans for managing these buildings. We discussed these plans
                   and asset disposal issues with officials responsible for asset management
                   in VA’s headquarters, in the Great Lakes network office, and at the
                   network’s health care facilities. We also discussed federal disposal
                   policies, procedures, and practices with officials of the General Services
                   Administration (GSA) as well as representatives of the National Trust for
                   Historic Preservation. We performed our review from January 2002
                   through January 2003 in accordance with generally accepted government
                   auditing standards. Appendix I contains a more detailed description of our
                   scope and methodology.


                   VA has developed or implemented alternative use or disposal plans for
Results in Brief   21 of its 30 unneeded, vacant buildings in the Great Lakes network. For


                   2
                    As part of the restructuring of inpatient services, VA also plans to close the Lakeside
                   Division of its Chicago Health Care System and transfer patients to the system’s West Side
                   Division and, as needed, to the Hines VA hospital, by December 2003. In addition, VA
                   identified three other network buildings that may become vacant over the next 3 years.




                   Page 2                             GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
             13 buildings, VA expects to generate revenue through Enhanced-Use
             Leases3 primarily with nonprofit organizations. Enhanced-Use Lease
             partners have demolished 4 buildings, and VA expects 4 additional
             buildings will be demolished to meet higher priority needs, such as
             additional cemetery capacity or parking for patients, visitors, and others
             when using VA health care facilities.

             For the remaining 9 vacant buildings, network officials identified three
             obstacles that hinder effective management. First, despite significant
             efforts to find alternate uses, they have been unable to find organizations
             interested in using the buildings due primarily to their location or physical
             condition. Second, network officials believe that it may cost more to
             demolish buildings than to continue to incur routine maintenance costs
             although in many cases the network has not determined the cost to
             demolish the vacant buildings. Third, although disposal responsibility for
             these buildings can be transferred to GSA, network officials have been
             reluctant to pursue this option primarily because VA would incur costs for
             environmental and other requirements that could exceed potential savings
             through avoidance of maintenance costs. However, the network has not
             determined whether such transfer costs actually exceed potential savings.
             VA also does not consider this to be an attractive option because any
             proceeds could only be used for construction of VA nursing homes.

             We are making a recommendation to improve the decision-making process
             for assessing alternative ways to deal with excess buildings. VA concurred
             with our recommendation.


             VA spent about $21 billion to provide health care services, including acute
Background   medicine, surgery, mental health, and long-term care, to about 4.2 million
             veterans during fiscal year 2001. Of VA’s 4,700 buildings, over 40 percent
             have operated for more than 50 years, including almost 200 built before
             1900. Over 1,600 buildings have historical significance that requires VA to
             comply with special procedures for maintenance and disposal.

             VA’s health care infrastructure was designed and built to reflect a concept
             of hospital-centered inpatient care, with long stays for diagnosis and



             3
              38 U.S.C. §8161 (2002) et seq. VA has authority to enter into partnerships to lease its
             properties to nongovernmental entities. In turn these entities develop, rehabilitate, or
             renovate the properties.




             Page 3                               GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
treatment. This concept is now outdated as new technology and treatment
methods have shifted delivery from inpatient to outpatient services where
possible and shortened lengths of stay when hospitalization is required. As
a result, VA’s capital assets often do not align with current health care
needs for optimal efficiency and access.

To address this situation, CARES will assess veterans’ potential demand
for health care over the next 20 years, identify potential service gaps and
develop delivery options for meeting veterans’ needs, and guide the
realignment of capital assets to support the preferred delivery options. VA
conducted a pilot test in the Great Lakes network, which served about
220,000 veterans in fiscal year 2001 with an annual budget of $891 million.
This network includes three general market areas: northern Illinois
(Chicago), Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In February
2002, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs selected strategies for realignment
of services. These strategies included (1) consolidation of services at
existing locations, (2) opening of new outpatient clinics, and (3) closure of
one inpatient location.

Subsequently, VA identified 30 vacant buildings that were no longer
needed to meet veterans’ health care needs. Of the 30 buildings, 11 are
considered to be historic. Under the provisions of the National Historic
Preservation Act,4 federal agencies are required to take into account the
effect of any federal undertaking on any historic property. Until a decision
is made on demolition, agencies that own or control historic properties are
required to preserve their historic character and minimize harm to them.
The act also establishes federal agency responsibilities that must be met if
historic properties are to be demolished.

During fiscal year 2001, officials in VA’s Great Lakes network told us that
an estimated $750,000 was spent to maintain vacant buildings, primarily
for utilities. Network officials told us that this represents a relatively small
portion of the total resources needed to adequately operate these
buildings for the delivery of health care or other purposes. Actual
expenses were lower because the buildings are no longer used for health
care.




4
 16 U.S.C. 470 et seq. The act establishes roles and responsibilities of the federal
government to preserve and protect historic properties.




Page 4                               GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
In general, the network considered three options when developing
property disposal or other plans for vacant buildings: Enhanced-Use
Leasing, demolition, or transferring the property to GSA, which has the
authority to dispose of excess or surplus federal property under the
Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (Property Act).5
Under Enhanced-Use Leasing, VA may lease property to others for up to 75
years; it may transfer title to the lessee at some time during the life of the
lease if such transfer is in the best interests of the federal government.
Demolition is a viable option when the associated costs can be recovered
within a reasonable period, primarily through the avoidance of
maintenance costs. If VA reports the property to GSA as excess, GSA
identifies potential users for the property by going through several levels
of screenings that evaluate users in the following order of priority: federal
users; organizations that will use the property for homeless programs
under the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act;6 nonprofit
organizations that may want the property for public uses such as parks,
museums, or educational facilities; and state or local governments. If none
of these screening processes produce a user, the site is made available for
public sale.

Following the pilot test in the Great Lakes network, VA made significant
modifications to its CARES procedures, including development of a more
systematic process to guide decisions involving the management of vacant
buildings. For example, networks will use a common format for estimating
future maintenance costs, as well as potential demolition costs. However,
the model does not include costs associated with the transfer of property
to GSA nor the potential revenue that could be realized.




5
 Excess property means any property under the control of a federal executive agency that
is not required for the agency’s needs or the discharge of its responsibility. (40 U.S.C. §
102(3); 41 C.F.R. §101-47.901.) If GSA determines that excess real property is not required
by any federal landholding agency, the property is deemed “surplus” and eligible for
disposal. (40 U.S.C. § 102(10); 41 C.F.R. 101-47.901.)
6
42 U.S.C. § 11411.




Page 5                              GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
                         VA has negotiated Enhanced-Use Leases for 10 vacant buildings and is
VA’s Management of       negotiating Enhanced-Use Leases for 3 buildings. Four buildings have
30 Vacant Buildings in   been demolished, and 4 additional buildings will be demolished. VA
                         currently has no disposal plans for the other 9 buildings.
Its Great Lakes
Network                  In April 2002, VA contracted with the Chicago Medical School for an
                         Enhanced-Use Lease of 10 vacant buildings at VA’s North Chicago health
                         care delivery location. The medical school will either renovate or demolish
                         these buildings and in return will purchase utilities, including steam,
                         electricity, and chilled water, from a VA-operated facility. In addition to
                         generating revenue from the sale of utilities, the network will avoid annual
                         maintenance costs of over $440,000.

                         VA is negotiating an Enhanced-Use Lease with Catholic Charities of
                         Chicago for 3 vacant buildings at the Hines VA hospital in Chicago. Two of
                         the three were considered historic; VA network officials took steps to have
                         the historic designation removed. VA expects Catholic Charities to
                         renovate the buildings to make them suitable for transitional housing for
                         the homeless. VA also expects to receive rental payments as well as
                         reimbursement for utilities, grounds maintenance, and snow removal. In
                         addition, VA is negotiating with Catholic Charities to use at least 50
                         percent of the housing for veterans who need this service. Network
                         officials told us that utilities were turned off and that no funds were spent
                         on these buildings for other purposes during fiscal year 2001.

                         Four buildings have been demolished, and 4 others will be demolished. At
                         the Chicago Health Care System’s West Side Division, the Enhanced-Use
                         Lease partner demolished 3 buildings in November 2002 to provide space
                         for a new parking garage and a Veterans Benefits Administration regional
                         office. The U. S. Navy demolished 1 building at North Chicago on land that
                         VA transferred to it for future use. Four other buildings will be demolished
                         because they present safety hazards or the land is needed to expand
                         existing VA facilities, including cemeteries. These buildings are located at
                         the Milwaukee health care facility and Hines VA hospital. Two of these
                         buildings, located at Milwaukee, are historic. The other two buildings are
                         at Hines. One of the two was considered historic. Network officials told us
                         they were successful in having the historic designation removed. This
                         building will be demolished in order to construct a surface parking lot for
                         a new spinal cord injury/blind rehabilitation center. During fiscal year
                         2001, VA spent about $17,000 to operate and maintain these 4 buildings.




                         Page 6                        GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
                         Despite the efforts of network officials, the lack of interest in 9 of VA’s
Obstacles to Alternate   vacant buildings has been an obstacle to finding alternate uses for these
Use or Disposal of 9     buildings. Network officials believe that maintaining ownership of the
                         vacant buildings is the least expensive course of action, given the
Vacant Buildings         relatively high demolition costs compared to annual maintenance costs
                         and considerable uncertainties concerning VA’s potential costs to transfer
                         the properties to GSA.

                         Network officials told us that they have attempted to interest outside
                         organizations in utilizing the 9 vacant buildings without success. For
                         example, officials at the medical center in Tomah, Wisconsin, offered to
                         transfer ownership of a 23,579-gross-square-foot building to a local Indian
                         tribe for use as office space and an outpatient clinic. The building, which
                         was constructed in 1929, has been vacant since 1983. According to VA, the
                         offer was turned down because of the $2 million cost of renovations
                         needed to make it suitable for this purpose. The medical center director
                         told us that because Tomah is located in a rural area, it has been difficult
                         to find other organizations interested in this building and its two other
                         vacant buildings.

                         Likewise, officials at the Milwaukee medical center told us that they have
                         had discussions with other organizations concerning use of 6 vacant
                         buildings. They have tried to generate interest in the buildings as elderly
                         housing, as office space, and for a youth home. These officials suggested
                         that two of the vacant buildings, a theater and a chapel, could, when
                         renovated, be used for these purposes if interested parties could be found.
                         They told us they have held discussions with other government agencies,
                         school organizations, a labor union, and charitable organizations without
                         success.

                         Network officials cited a second obstacle, namely that the cost to
                         demolish the 9 vacant buildings could not be recovered through avoidance
                         of maintenance costs, such as utilities, within a reasonable period. For
                         example, the network determined that the cost to demolish 3 of these
                         9 vacant buildings would be about $500,000, while maintenance costs for
                         the 3 buildings were about $26,000 during fiscal year 2001.

                         The shortest recovery period was about 11 years for 1 of the 4 buildings.
                         This 33,910-square-foot building, located in Tomah, Wisconsin, has been
                         vacant since 1998. According to VA, the cost to demolish this building
                         would be $212,000. During fiscal year 2001, the medical center spent about
                         $18,600 for utilities for this building. By contrast, demolition costs for
                         1 building would likely take over 40 years to recover. This 23,579-gross-


                         Page 7                        GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
square-foot building has been vacant at the Tomah medical center since
1983. During fiscal year 2001, the medical center spent about $7,000 to
maintain this building. According to VA, the cost to demolish this building
would be $308,000.

In addition, network officials cited the uncertainty of potential costs as the
third obstacle in declaring the 9 buildings excess property under the
provisions of the Property Act. First there is no assurance that VA could
save money given that property-holding agencies, such as VA, incur costs
in disposing of excess property with GSA. Property-holding agencies are
generally responsible for mothballing and stabilizing7 property in order to
prevent its further deterioration pending transfer to another federal
agency or its disposal. According to GSA, the landholding agency is also
responsible for studies to detect the presence of hazardous wastes as well
as archeological sites.

GSA officials also told us that they are committed to maintaining the best
and highest use for the property and that historic property will be
transferred only under covenants that protect its historic designation; all 9
buildings are considered historic. According to a network official, the
Great Lakes network has not determined whether the cost of transferring
these excess buildings to GSA exceeds the cost of continuing to own and
maintain them.

Second, VA does not consider the transfer of vacant buildings to GSA (by
declaring them excess) to be an attractive option. This is because
proceeds that are received from the sale of real property must be
deposited into the VA Nursing Home Revolving Fund, which is only to be
used for the construction of nursing homes. VA would prefer to use these
proceeds for the delivery of inpatient and outpatient services for veterans
as well as long-term care. VA officials told us that they had proposed
legislation that would allow VA to use sales proceeds to support veterans’
health care delivery, but it was not enacted. As a result, VA would prefer to
pursue Enhanced-Use Leases, which will allow VA to use revenue to meet
the overall health care needs of veterans.




7
 Mothballing includes securing the buildings, providing adequate ventilation, and
disconnecting and sealing off all utilities. Stabilizing includes structurally stabilizing the
buildings, controlling pests, and protecting the exterior and interior from moisture.




Page 8                                GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
                     Officials in VA’s Great Lakes network have made progress dealing with
Conclusions          vacant buildings that are no longer needed in the delivery of health care to
                     veterans. When there is no Enhanced-Use Lease potential, however, these
                     officials have encountered several obstacles, including potentially high
                     demolition costs or uncertain site preparation costs associated with
                     reporting buildings to GSA as excess to VA’s needs. Understandably, they
                     are reluctant to commit potentially large amounts of health care resources
                     for the demolition or site preparation without sufficient assurance that
                     most or all costs will be recovered. The Great Lakes network has retained
                     ownership of 9 vacant buildings and thus continues to spend medical care
                     resources to maintain them. As the CARES process is completed in the 20
                     remaining networks, costs associated with an increasing number of
                     unneeded buildings that will be identified will grow. Therefore, it is critical
                     that VA take the steps needed to systematically evaluate all relevant cost
                     information. VA’s recent changes to the CARES process provide a
                     framework for making effective decisions, although since the changes
                     have not been tested, it remains unclear whether they will function as an
                     effective model that includes complete cost information concerning
                     options to dispose of or find alternate uses for vacant buildings.


                     To ensure that the newly developed CARES model for managing excess
Recommendation for   buildings will provide an effective decision-making tool that could be used
Executive Action     in the other networks, we recommend that the Secretary of Veterans
                     Affairs conduct a pilot test of the model in the Great Lakes network and
                     make modifications, if needed.


                     In commenting on a draft of this report, VA agreed with our findings and
Agency Comments      conclusions and concurred with our recommendation. VA’s letter is
                     reprinted in appendix II.

                     We modified the report to use the term “Enhanced Use Leasing,” as VA
                     suggested. We also incorporated VA’s technical comments as appropriate.
                     VA also emphasized that it had proposed legislation that would allow VA
                     to use sales proceeds to support veterans’ health care delivery, but it has
                     not been enacted. Also, VA expressed concern that the process for
                     removing buildings from historic preservation status is a significant
                     obstacle when it attempts to find alternate use for or dispose of all
                     remaining buildings. We agree that this process complicates VA’s ability to
                     manage vacant buildings, but as we stated in our report, VA has been
                     successful in removing the historic designation of buildings in the Great
                     Lakes network in order to facilitate demolition or alternate use. Factors


                     Page 9                        GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
such as the constraints on the ability to retain proceeds from the sale of
real property and the need to address historical building issues are shared
by many real property-holding agencies. We discuss the factors associated
with excess property in the federal government as a whole in a soon-to-be-
released report on longstanding problems in the federal real property
arena.


We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
and other interested parties. We will also make copies available to others
upon request. In addition, the report is available at no charge on the GAO
Web site at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff members have any questions about this report, please
call me at (202) 512-7101. Key contributors to this report were Paul
Reynolds, Behn Miller, and John Borrelli.

Sincerely yours,




Cynthia A. Bascetta
Director, Health Care—Veterans’
 Health and Benefits Issues




Page 10                      GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
             Appendix I: Scope and Methodology
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology


             To assess the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) efforts to manage
             unneeded, vacant buildings, we obtained information from the Great Lakes
             network on the number of such buildings, the cost to maintain the
             buildings, and its efforts to find alternate uses for the buildings. We asked
             for information such as the age of the buildings, the year in which they
             became vacant, the cost of utilities and other operating costs, as well as
             the cost of any needed repairs. We also asked about the network’s plans to
             manage these buildings through such actions as demolition or Enhanced-
             Use Lease.

             After we received this information we visited the network and interviewed
             the Director and other network staff members about their efforts to deal
             with unneeded, vacant buildings. We discussed with these officials their
             plans for implementing Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services
             (CARES) options selected by the Secretary. We visited the Hines,
             Milwaukee, and North Chicago hospitals. During our visits we met with
             hospital directors, associate directors, and their staffs. We discussed with
             these officials their actions to find alternate uses for the buildings and
             problems they have encountered in doing so. By telephone, we discussed
             with the Director of the Tomah hospital and members of his staff
             information on the hospital’s vacant buildings. At the Milwaukee and
             North Chicago hospitals, we visually inspected vacant buildings. We did
             not tour vacant buildings at Hines because of building safety concerns.

             At VA headquarters, we met with officials to discuss the CARES process
             and VA’s plans for managing vacant buildings. We reviewed CARES
             planning documents, including information supporting the network’s
             August 2002 realignment decisions. We also met with VA’s Historic
             Preservation Officer to discuss the impact of historic significance on VA’s
             ability to take actions on unneeded vacant buildings.

             We met with General Services Administration officials to discuss the
             process for disposing of excess property as well as proposed legislation
             aimed at improving federal agencies’ ability to manage federal property.
             We also discussed management of historic properties with officials at the
             National Trust for Historic Preservation.

             We performed our review from January 2002 through January 2003 in
             accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.




             Page 11                             GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
             Appendix II: Comments from the Department
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
             of Veterans Affairs



of Veterans Affairs




             Page 12                         GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
           Appendix II: Comments from the Department
           of Veterans Affairs




(290113)
           Page 13                         GAO-03-326 VA's Management of Excess Real Property
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