AFGE and its National VA Council have been longtime advocates for mandatory funding of the VA, an approach widely supported by the veterans community. AFGE with the nine veterans' groups comprising the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform endorsed advanced appropriations as an alternative funding approach that is achievable in the short term. As detailed in the bill, advanced appropriations would authorize Congress to approve funding for VA health care a year in advance of the next fiscal year. The Partnership has also advocated that the Government Accountability Office study and provide a report to Congress annually for the next three years on the VA's budget forecasting model and estimates.
"The current VA funding process is broken. The delays in funding drive up costs, threaten patient care, and weaken the VA as a whole," said J. David Cox, AFGE national secretary-treasurer and former registered nurse in the VA for more than 20 years. "We are grateful that Senator Akaka and Representative Filner have introduced this critically important legislation."
The VA has received its appropriation from Congress on time only twice in the last fourteen years. This reliance on discretionary budget dollars has taken a heavy toll on both the timeliness and the adequacy of VA health care. Medical center directors forced to rely on discretionary funding must delay hiring nurses and other clinicians, repairs to their facilities, and new medical equipment purchases. The delays that result adversely impact medical care and increase costs by forcing understaffed hospitals to turn to private agency nurses for fee-basis care and delaying diagnostic testing for patients.
The American Federation of Government Employees is the largest federal employee union, representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.