Veteran Funding Update

Contact Kristal DeKleer at (202) 225-9756
Veterans’ Affairs Committee Passes Historic Bill to Secure Timely Funding for Veterans’ Health Care
Washington, D.C. – On Wednesday, June 10, 2009, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs led by Chairman Bob Filner (D-CA) announced the passage of H.R. 1016, landmark legislation to secure timely funding for veterans’ health care through the ‘advance appropriations’ process.
H.R. 1016 would authorize Congress to approve Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care appropriations one year in advance of the start of each fiscal year.  An advance appropriation would provide VA with up to one 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.  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.
Reform of the method in which the VA health care system is funded continues to be a top legislative priority for many veteran service organizations.  In a letter sent by eleven veteran service organizations, a vote for H.R. 1016 “will be among the most important for veterans and their families that the Committee will take this year.”  Representatives of these groups offered testimony in support of advance appropriations at a recent Committee hearing which focused on funding the VA of the future.  (Testimony available here: HVAC Hearing Information)
H.R. 1016 was amended before the Committee voted to approve the measure.  Key changes include requiring the President to submit a request for VA medical care accounts for the “fiscal year following the fiscal year for which the budget is submitted,” as part of the annual budget submission.  Additionally, VA will be required to detail estimates in the budget documents it submits annually to Congress.  Each July, the VA will be required to report to Congress if it has the resources it needs for the upcoming fiscal year in order for Congress to address any funding imbalances.  This will help to safeguard against the VA facing budget shortfalls such as it faced just a few years ago.
Chairman Filner offered the following statement: “Today, this Committee approved a historic new approach to providing adequate and timely funding for veterans’ health care.  For too many years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has had to make do with insufficient budgets resulting in restricted access for many veterans.  Members of the Committee have worked closely with veteran service organizations to respond to years of chronic underfunding and tardy appropriations with this landmark bill to guarantee that our veterans have access to comprehensive, quality health care.”
·       H.R. 1016, as amended – Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 (Filner)
H.R. 1016 would authorize Congress to approve VA medical care appropriations one year in advance of the start of each fiscal year.  The bill provides Congress 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.
The bill will next be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives

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