RAO Davao City

United States Military Retiree Activities Office Davao City, Philippines

VA HEALTH CARE FUNDING UPDATE August 29, 2008

Posted by Service Officer on August 29th, 2008

Hoping to avoid annual problems with veterans’ health care budgets that are too late and too small, a coalition of nine veterans groups proposes a radical change in how Congress funds Department of Veterans Affairs medical programs. The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform (PVHCBR) which includes the American Legion, AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and Vietnam Veterans of America is trying to solve two problems.

 

• One is that Congress is downright pokey in approving annual budgets. Only once in the last 14 years, and twice in the last 20 years, has the VA budget been approved by the start of the new fiscal year. The funding bill, known as appropriations, has been 3½ months late, on average, over the last six years.

• A second and more serious problem is that the VA budget still isn’t large enough to eliminate waiting lists for medical appointments.

The veterans’ groups propose a two-part solution: They want a better method of calculating how much money is needed and they want advance appropriations. If their plan was in effect now, Congress would be working on the veterans’ budget for fiscal 2010, which begins on 1 OCT 09. Peter Dickinson, of Stand Up for Veterans, a program created by Disabled American Veterans, said calling for advance appropriations is an attempt to “break the logjam” that has stopped Congress from resolving a long-standing issue: VA budgets that don’t fully serve veterans. For years, major veterans’ groups have pushed Congress to treat VA funding similar to funding for Medicare and Medicaid. Costs for those programs are covered without Congress having to pass annual budgets. While key lawmakers have expressed support for so-called “mandatory” funding of veterans’ programs, Dickinson said a combination of problems has kept Congress from approving the idea, leaving veterans’ groups to look for other ideas.

Joseph Violante, DAV’s national legislative director, described advance funding for the VA as a way for veterans to get the first slice of funding in each budget without having to compete with other programs. Violante said he and other veterans’ representatives have met with congressional leaders and staff to try to win support for their proposal but have not received firm commitments. Veterans groups hope to get lawmakers on record supporting the idea before the November elections to set the stage for consideration of the funding initiative early next year, when the next session of Congress convenes. Dickinson said the VA health care system suffers disruption every year the budget is late because VA generally is limited to spending at the previous year’s limits until a final appropriations bill is approved for the new year. Under such restrictions, VA cannot do long-ranging planning or purchase major medical equipment, and the hiring of personnel can be delayed, Dickinson said. It is not yet clear whether Congress will pass the upcoming fiscal 2009 veterans budget by the 1 OCT start of the fiscal year. [Source: NavyTimes Rick Maze article 15 Aug 08 ++]

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