Congress Passes Historic Bill to Secure Timely Funding for Veterans Health Care

Written by Imperial Valley News   
Wednesday, 24 June 2009


Washington, DC – Yesterday the House of Representatives approved H.R. 1016, landmark legislation to secure timely funding for veterans’ health care delivered through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, announced passage of the bill that would authorize the ‘advance appropriations’ process.  The bill provides Congress greater ability to develop appropriation bills that provide sufficient funding to meet the best estimate of anticipated demand for VA health care services in future years by allowing funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical accounts one year in advance.  Bob Filner (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said, “Today, this House of Representatives took action to respond to years of chronic underfunding of VA medical care. Over the last 22 years, 19 VA budgets have been passed late – and our veterans pay the price with fewer doctors, longer waiting times, and more restricted access for the 6 million veterans using VA health care. Members of the Committee have worked closely with veteran service organizations to pass this landmark bill and guarantee that our veterans have access to comprehensive, quality health care.”  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.  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.


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