FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Donalyn Dela Cruz
September 20, 2006 (202) 224-6361
REVIEW ON VETERANS BUDGET REVEALS FAULTY ACCOUNTING AND NEED FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY
Washington, D.C. ? A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today shows that the Administration could be doing much better in budgeting for veterans' health care needs and in informing Congress about any potential problems.
U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, along with Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Ken Salazar (D-CO), requested the review by the GAO, because of the recent $3 billion shortfall in veterans' health care. While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) knew about the huge funding shortfall for fiscal years 2005 and 2006, VA held this information from Congress for months. According to GAO, VA felt seriously ?challenged? by the budget as early as October 2004, yet Congress did not learn of these challenges until April of 2005. Shortly thereafter, Congress approved billions in supplemental funding.
?When health care for veterans is at stake, the Administration must not use budget gimmicks to pretend that its fiscal house is in order,? Ranking Member Akaka said. ?VA must be much more forthcoming and provide a better picture of VA's finances to Congress. Every day that the VA health care system is in financial distress is another day that veterans are not getting the care they need.?
In order to ensure that veterans receive the care they deserve ? and that the funding is there to provide that care ? Senator Akaka asked VA Secretary Jim Nicholson to comply immediately with the recommendations made by GAO. The recommendations are aimed at helping VA improve its budget formulation of its medical programs and facilitate congressional oversight.