WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, gathered six top national veterans' service organizations at a hearing to discuss their priorities for the new Congress. Committee members and the witnesses from the veterans' groups discussed a number of important issues facing America's veterans, from the backlog on benefits claims to timely implementation of the new GI Bill. The witnesses were unanimous in their support for legislation to fund veterans' health care one-year ahead of the regular appropriations process, as provided for in the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act of 2008, introduced by Chairman Akaka with bipartisan support in the previous Congress.
Senator Akaka signaled his intention to reintroduce the legislation: "VA operates the largest health care system in the nation, but its funding is unpredictable and often untimely. I join President Obama, Secretary Shinseki, the veterans' organizations and many others in calling for advance funding for veterans' health care. I look forward to working for its passage in this Congress," said Akaka.
Testimony from Veterans Organizations on Advance Funding
The American Legion - "...The American Legion and its colleagues now recommend an alternative to mandatory funding - advance appropriations. The American Legion believes this change would assure timeliness and predictability."
Disabled American Veterans - "Introduction and passage of the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act in the 111th Congress would address DAV's highest priority in VA health care."
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America - "The best way to ensure timely funding of veterans' health care is to fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care budget one year in advance."
Paralyzed Veterans of America - "Historically, advance appropriations have been used to make a program function more effectively, better align with funding cycles of program receipts, or provide insulation from annual partisan political maneuvering."
Veterans of Foreign Wars - "VFW urges funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs to be sufficient, predictable and timely, ending the trend of the last decade wherein VA's budget has been delivered months late."
Vietnam Veterans of America - "We believe that Advance Appropriations will solve many of the problems encountered by the VHA, and will enable veterans health care to realize a predictable, reliable, sufficient and perhaps most important, timely funding stream."
Chairman Akaka's full statement and links to the witnesses statements are available by clicking here.
- END -
January 28, 2009