Akaka Pledges Commitment in Bipartisan Response to VA Budget Shortfall

Washington D.C. -- Senator Daniel K. Akaka joined seven of his colleagues from the Senate and House today, in response to the recent admission by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), that it is at least $1 billion short on health care funding. VA has raided its emergency and construction accounts for next year to make up for this year's deficits, in order to try and keep pace with demand.

"This situation is very alarming, as VA has already been forced to tap into emergency funds for next year, as well as vital construction funds that could have been used to upgrade and repair VA hospitals. Now that we have confirmation that there truly is a problem, we can get to work on it together, and I am committed to working with my colleagues to ensure that veterans and returning servicemembers get the health care they deserve," Senator Akaka said.

Senators Akaka and Murray offered an amendment to the Emergency War Supplemental Appropriations Bill in April 2005, that would have secured an additional $1.9 billion in funding for VA for this year. At the time, VA officials denied that supplemental funds were necessary.

During the April debate, Senator Akaka pushed for the additional funding on the basis that any influx of returning servicemembers from Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom into the VA system could jeopardize quality of care because VA had not appropriately budgeted for the increase in demand for health care.

Senator Akaka said, "Caring for our men and women not just on the battlefield -- but also when they return home -- must be considered part of the ongoing costs of war."