The House and Senate approved similar bills in June (S 2450 and HR 4810) written to take immediate measures to increase and improve veterans’ access to VA health care following the recent crisis. Both pieces of legislation allow the millions of enrolled veterans to seek health care outside the VA system, authorize the VA to lease new facilities, and broaden the VA secretary’s power to demote or fire senior VA officials.
It is the cost of these measures that DAV finds particularly alarming, and potentially harmful to the VA and to veterans in the long run.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the Senate bill would cost $35 billion over three years, and the House bill would cost $44 billion over six years. It has been suggested that in order to meet these costs, it may be necessary to look for offsets outside the VA.
Funding is clearly already at the forefront of this issue. The White House Chief of Staff’s report to the President on the findings within VA have said as much. The report cites a lack of transparency and accountability, poor preparation for the changing demographics of veterans, and largely, a widespread lack of resources that could not keep pace with the demand for services.
Additionally, these bills propose to send more veterans outside the VA health care system. While this fixes the immediate access issue, there must be additional funding in place to cover these expenses without taking funds away from the VA hospitals and clinics that are already at or near capacity.