Page:United States Statutes at Large Volume 112 Part 3.djvu/246

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112 STAT. 2076 PUBLIC LAW 105-261—OCT. 17, 1998 Department of Veterans Affairs are national institutions that collectively manage more than 1,500 hospitals, clinics, and health care facilities worldwide to provide services to more than 11,000,000 beneficiaries. (2) In the post-Cold War era, these institutions are in a profound transition that involves challenging opportunities. (3) During the period from 1988 to 1998, the number of military medical personnel has declined by 15 percent and the number of military hospitals has been reduced by onethird. (4) During the 2 years since 1996, the Department of Veterans Affairs has revitalized its structure by decentralizing authority into 22 Veterans Integrated Service Networks. (5) In the face of increasing costs of medical care, increased demands for health care services, and increasing budgetary constraints, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have embarked on a variety of dynamic and innovative cooperative programs ranging from shared services to joint venture operations of medical facilities. (6) In 1984, there was a combined total of 102 Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense facilities with sharing agreements. By 1997, that number had grown to 420. During the six years from fiscal year 1992 through fiscal year 1997, shared services increased from slightly over 3,000 services to more than 6,000 services, ranging from major medical and surgical services, laundry, blood, and laboratory services to unusual speciality care services. (7) The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are conducting four health care joint ventures in New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, and Oklahoma, and are planning to conduct four more such ventures in Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, and California. (b) SENSE OF CONGRESS.— It is the sense of Congress that— (1) the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs should be commended for the cooperation between the two departments in the delivery of medical care, of which the cooperation involved in the establishment and operation of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs Executive Council is a praiseworthy example; (2) the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are encouraged to continue to explore new opportunities to enhance the availability and delivery of medical care to beneficiaries by further enhancing the cooperative efforts of the departments; and (3) enhanced cooperation between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs is encouraged regarding— (A) the general areas of access to quality medical care, identification and elimination of impediments to enhanced cooperation, and joint research and program development; and (B) the specific areas in which there is significant potential to achieve progress in cooperation in a short term, including computerization of patient records systems, participation of the Department of Veterans Affairs in the