Washington, DC – DAV (Disabled American Veterans), a leading veteran service organization with over 1.2 million members, released the following statement by the Executive Director of its Washington Headquarters, Garry Augustine, on the compromise reached by the House-Senate Conference Committee to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and increase access for veterans to timely medical care:
“Today’s bipartisan, bicameral compromise agreement to address the VA health care access crisis is a promising first step to rebuild VA’s capacity and provide all enrolled veterans with timely, high-quality health care.
“While the bills initially passed by the Senate and House were more exclusively focused on allowing veterans unable to get prompt VA appointments to purchase care from private providers, we are pleased the Conference agreement includes new funding to expand the VA’s internal capacity to see and treat veterans in need, both now and in the future.
“For years, DAV has argued that woefully inadequate funding and budget gimmicks left the VA with neither the medical staff nor the facilities to handle the influx of veterans seeking care. Fortunately, the compromise agreement acknowledges this by appropriating the first year’s down payment on the resource request by Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson to hire new doctors and nurses, repair and expand treatment space and lease additional clinic facilities.
“While no veteran should be forced to wait too long or travel too far to get their care, we remain concerned that simply giving veterans plastic cards and wishing them good luck in the private sector is not a substitute for a coordinated system of care. The VA must remain fully responsible for ensuring the best health outcomes for veterans not only by purchasing such care when VA is unable to provide it directly, but also by coordinating the delivery of non-VA care, including all follow up necessary.
“We all share in the sacred obligation to provide wounded, injured and ill veterans the care and benefits they have earned. Today’s agreement must now be followed by careful implementation of the legislation, aggressive oversight of the new programs, and realistic budgets and appropriations so that such a crisis never recurs.
“Moving forward, Congress must provide VA with appropriations that are matched to its mission without gimmicks or fake efficiencies. Moreover, to ensure that veterans are fully protected from future budget battles, Congress should also swiftly enact pending bipartisan legislation to extend advance appropriations to all VA programs, services and benefits.”
About DAV: Founded by World War I veterans in Cincinnati in 1920 and chartered by U.S. Congress in 1932, DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV, is a non-profit organization with 1.2 million members. Learn more at www.dav.org.