WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, held a hearing on VA health care funding issues. Numerous funding shortfalls and appropriations delays in recent years have raised concerns about the current process VA relies on for funding its health care system. Today's hearing addressed many those issues and offered different perspectives on the sustainability of funding for the VA health care system.
The hearing was a comprehensive discussion of different methods of funding health care systems, as well as opinions on the current state of financial affairs at VA. Dr. Uwe Reinhardt, a highly respected health economist at Princeton University, who's own son served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, illustrated how VA's rate of growth in terms of spending over the past decade has been the lowest overall, when compared to the private health industry, Medicare, and even total national spending on health. He added that, "...it must be kept in mind that during this period, the VA had to absorb increasing numbers of young veterans who were physically and mentally traumatized by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Dr. Reinhardt also pointed out that as the overall costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to increase, so will the cost that VA has to bear in order to care for returning servicemembers, a point with which Chairman Akaka strongly agreed.
"For years now, my colleagues and I have been reminding this Nation and this Administration that caring for veterans must be included as part of the total cost of war," stated Senator Akaka.
"Taking care of veterans is not a commitment we can continue to subject to the whims of political wrangling and other factors. The time has come for real change in how VA is funded, because we owe that to the men and women we are sending overseas, into battle. Today's hearing made the case for the need for true VA budget reform." Chairman Akaka added.
The Witnesses at today's hearing included Kenneth W. Kizer, MD, MPH, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board, Medsphere Systems Corporation, and former VA Under Secretary for Health from 1994 to 1999; Uwe E. Reinhardt, PhD, Professor of Political Economy, Economics, and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University; Joe Violante, National Legislative Director, Disabled American Veterans, representing the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform; J. David Cox, National Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO; and The Honorable Michael J. Kussman, MD, Under Secretary for Health, Department of Veterans Affairs.