WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Senate has unanimously approved U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka’s (D-HI) legislation to secure timely and predictable funding for the veterans’ health care system. Akaka introduced the measure with the backing of leading veterans service organizations, shepherded the bill through the Committee, and secured the backing of more than half of the Senate before securing its passage by unanimous consent last night, setting the stage for the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees to negotiate a final version of the legislation, which can then be approved by the full House and Senate.
“Congress has worked in recent years to reverse VA’s chronic underfunding, but we still need to address the broken way that we fund the nation’s largest health care system. With advance funding we will make sure that veterans’ health care receives timely and predictable funding, allowing VA health care dollars to go further for veterans and taxpayers,” said Akaka.
“Delays in the appropriations process for veterans’ medical care have, all too often, prevented the VA from receiving the funding required to provide veterans the medical care they’ve earned. Over the past six years, the VA has not received its annual funding on average until more than three months after the start of the new fiscal year. Clearly, it is long past time Congress remedied this bureaucratic nightmare, and we have moved one step closer today,” said Senator Snowe (R-ME), a lead Republican on the bill. “This Senate action is extremely welcome news and I stand ready to continue working with my colleagues to ensure this legislation is swiftly enacted into law.”
Akaka’s legislation, the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 (S. 423), would secure funding for veterans’ health care one-year in advance of the regular appropriations process. S. 423 would also ensure transparency in the funding process by requiring public reports and GAO audits on VA’s funding forecasting. Currently, VA is funded year-by-year; a process which has resulted in late funding 19 of the past 22 years. VA operates the largest health care system in the nation, providing care for millions of wounded and indigent veterans.
August 7, 2009