Friday, February 13, 2009

Filner and Akaka Reintroduce Legislation to Secure Timely Funding for Veterans’




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 12, 2009

Filner and Akaka Reintroduce Legislation to Secure Timely Funding for Veterans’ Health Care through Advance Appropriations

Chairmen joined by veterans organizations in calling for passage of bipartisan plan

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, joined a bipartisan group of Senators and Members of Congress in reintroducing legislation today to secure timely funding for veterans’ health care through the “advance appropriations” process. Chairman Filner stood with Senate Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), other members of Congress, and leaders from several veterans service organizations and called for sufficient, timely and predictable funding for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA).

“I appreciate the sentiments of Secretary Shinseki to approve and implement future VA budgets on time, but we must also recognize the various obstacles that frequently prevent this from happening,” said Filner. “The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 is a way to explore a new manner in which to fund the VA. We need to consider a historic new approach to guarantee that our veterans have access to comprehensive, quality health care that they deserve and have earned. There is no greater priority facing our nation than providing health care to our veterans and we must be willing to pay the cost, whatever that cost may be. For too many years, VA has had to make do with insufficient budgets resulting in restricted access for many veterans. When funding is short, it is our veterans who pay the price.”

H.R. 1016 would authorize Congress to approve VA medical care appropriations one year in advance of the start of each fiscal year. Unlike proposals to convert VA health care to a mandatory funding program, an advance appropriation does not create PAYGO concerns since VA health care funding would remain discretionary. Congress employs a PAYGO rule which demands that new proposals must either be budget neutral or offset with savings derived from existing funds. In addition, an advance appropriation would provide VA with up to a year in which to plan how to deliver the most efficient and effective care to an increasing number of veterans with increasingly complex medical conditions.

Senator Akaka said: “We are a step closer towards securing timely, predictable funding for the nation’s largest health care system – the Veterans Health Administration. Our plan would create a transparent process that will help VA use its funding more efficiently and care for veterans more effectively than it has in the past. I am proud to be joined by a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders and major veterans service organizations in calling for an end to VHA’s unpredictable funding.”

“There is no question that we’ve made great strides towards correcting these funding problems during the past two years,” said Chairman Filner. “However, this new legislation offers us a historic opportunity to permanently reform the VA health care budget process in a commonsense way to help ensure that future generations never again face these kinds of problems.”

The new legislation would also task the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) with studying and reporting to Congress for the next three years on VA’s budget forecasting model and estimates. By shedding sunlight on VA’s internal budget process, Congress will have a much greater ability and incentive to develop appropriation bills that provide sufficient funding to meet the best estimate of anticipated demand for VA health care services in future years.

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