By Mark Heschmeyer

June 22, 2017

Following through on a promise from Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin, the VA announced plans to dispose of all of its vacant buildings over the next 24 months. If it can’t sell, re-use or otherwise dispose of the property, it plans to knock them down and clear the site for something else.The Secretary also announced that VA will review another 784 non-vacant but underutilized buildings to determine if they can be sold or re-used, with the savings reinvested in veterans’ services.

“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,” Dr. Shulkin said. “We will work through the legal requirements and regulations for disposal and reuse and we will do it as swiftly as possible.”

In addition to the building closures, Dr. Shulkin announced that the Veterans Benefits Administration is freezing its footprint and will look to maximize its space management by leasing or eliminating office space nationwide. The agency plans to implement a robust telework program and work to digitize VA claim files.

The agency estimates these actions will save taxpayers close to $23 million annually.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin

Dr. Shulkin 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 in maintenance and other costs. The count includes buildings that are less than 50% occupied.

For example a 70% vacant building still has 30% of the building being used for some functions, but it is still considered a “vacant” building.

VA assessments have identified property deficiencies of more than $18 billion, including structural seismic, electrical distribution and mechanical systems such as heating and ventilation.

Here are the 10 largest properties affected by the new VA initiative:

Station Name — State — Usage — Total GSF — % Vacant — Year Built

  • New Orleans — LA — Hospital — 898,651 – 88% — 1952
  • Pittsburgh, Highland Drive — PA — Hospital — 186,814 — 100% — 1953
  • St Louis, John Cochran — MO — Other Institutional Uses — 136,841 — 100% — 1965
  • Milwaukee — WI — Housing — 133,730 — 98% — 1869
  • Pittsburgh, Highland Drive — PA — Office — 119,275 — 100% — 1953
  • Pittsburgh, Highland Drive — PA — Hospital — 101,945 — 100% — 1953
  • Lyons — NJ — Dormitories/Barracks — 79,400 — 100% — 1940
  • CAVHCS, Tuskegee — AL — Dormitories/Barracks — 75,048 — 52% — 1936
  • Northport — NY — Hospital — 74,125 — 100% — 1927
  • CAVHCS, Tuskegee — AL — Other — 73,983 — 78% — 1932
    Of the total of 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.