Oct 06 2017
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) yesterday introduced the VA Financial Accountability Act, bipartisan legislation that would ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budgets accurately and responsibly. This legislation responds to continued concerns about the VA’s inability to track its budget and spending of the Veterans Choice Program.
This legislation would require a third party review of the VA’s financial processes, including how the VA tracks its budget and spending. It would also require that any VA funding requests made outside of the normal budget process are completed at least 45 days before any veteran’s health care or benefits could be cut off for lack of funding, and that the VA provide Congress with a justification for the request and with a spending plan.
“Over the past several months, we’ve seen the VA lurch from funding crisis to funding crisis because of its inability to effectively manage its budget,” said Senator McCain. “Our veterans deserve to have certainty that their access to quality care in the community through the Veterans Choice program will continue uninterrupted. Our legislation would require the VA to responsibly and accurately manage its budget to eliminate future funding crises and give veterans the confidence in their care they deserve. Unless and until the VA gets a grasp on its finances and demand outlook, our effort in Congress to develop a plan for consolidating veterans health care in the community will continue to face difficulty.”
“The VA’s inability to provide Congress with an accurate budget is hurting veterans and taxpayers across this nation,” said Senator Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “We can’t keep throwing money at the VA without more accountability over their budget and spending practices. This bill will give us more confidence in the VA’s ability to budget in a way that ensures veterans are getting the very best care.”
“The Choice program has helped the Department of Veterans Affairs better serve veterans by allowing them to seek needed medical care outside of the VA system when necessary,” said Senator Kaine. “However, it was troubling to hear recently that the VA will need additional money for the Choice program earlier than expected after Congress just authorized more funding for it. The VA’s uncertainty about exactly when Choice funding will be run out affects Congress’ ability to responsibly budget. Requiring the VA to justify spending requests will ensure it is spending its dollars in the most effective way possible to best serve our veterans.”
“We have a sacred obligation to fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs and care for the brave men and women who have borne the battle, but we also have a responsibility to the American taxpayer to be good stewards of their hard-earned money,” said Senator Manchin. “Unfortunately, as it stands today, the VA lacks the oversight and accountability needed to accomplish either goal effectively. That’s why I am proud to be an original cosponsor on this bill that would force the VA to budget efficiently.”
The VA has requested $3.2 billion in emergency funding for the Choice Program twice this year alone – in March and July. Congress provided funding that the VA initially said would last through February 2018, but reports have recently questioned if the funding provided in July would last through the end of this year.
Senator McCain sent a letter on September 27, 2017, to VA Secretary David Shulkin regarding the VA’s funding shortfall for the Veterans Choice Program. Read the letter here.
The legislation is here.