Congressional Record Statement of Senator Daniel K. Akaka
Mr. President, I am very gratified that the Senate is acting on S. 423, the proposed Veterans Health Care Budget and Transparency Act of 2009 . This bill would authorize, beginning in fiscal year 2011, advance appropriations for certain medical care accounts of the Department of Veterans Affairs by providing two fiscal year budget authority.
The Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a hearing on pending health care legislation on April 22, 2009 , during which the Committee received testimony on S. 423. Support for this bill was voiced by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Disabled American Veterans , American Federation of Government Employees, and Paralyzed Veterans of America. The Committee ordered the bill reported on May 21, 2009 . The Committee report--S. Rpt, 111-041--was filed on July 8, 2009 .
In 19 of the past 22 fiscal years, final VA appropriations have been enacted late and requests for supplemental appropriations for VA health care have increased in frequency during recent years. Over the past 7 years, final VA appropriations were late approximately 3 months on average. While there has been some impact on the timeliness and overall quality of VA care from these financial and management difficulties in the past, there is a serious concern that continued funding problems could significantly weaken the quality of veterans' health care . Providing sufficient, timely and predictable funding to the VA health care system would mitigate these dangers and allow VA administrators and directors to more efficiently and effectively provide medical care to veterans.
Advanced funding would allow the VA to function more effectively, to better align with funding cycles, and to avoid annual partisan political maneuvering. Through appropriating funds in advance to the medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities accounts, we can avoid any disruption to the provision of adequate and timely health care to those who have sacrificed a great deal for this nation.
I understand that authorizing advanced appropriations is a serious endeavor and as such have made sure this legislation also enhances oversight of the VA health care budget process. The Comptroller General of the United States will be required to conduct a study of adequacy and accuracy of the budget projections made by VA's Enrollee Health Care Projection Model and any other model or methodology used to measure health care expenditures. The study would cover the five fiscal years included in each budget submission; however, the focus is intended to be upon the fiscal year for which the advance appropriation would be made. These reports would be submitted to the appropriate committees of Congress no later than the date on which the President submits the budget request for the following fiscal year.
This bill has received support from a myriad of organizations including The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform , The Independent Budget Veterans Service Organizations, The Military Coalition, and the American Federation for Government Employees. I thank them for their efforts and ongoing commitment to this legislation.
I thank the many Senators who have cosponsored this legislation, including Committee members Senators Burr, Rockefeller, Murray, Sanders, Brown, Tester, Begich, Burris, Specter and Isakson. I am also delighted that Senator Snowe was an original cosponsor of this bill and has worked hard in support of it.
Mr. President, this legislation will bring much needed stability and predictability to the VA health care system and consistent, high-quality health care to the veterans and I am delighted with today's action by the Senate.
August 6, 2009