Delays in passing the Veterans Affairs Department budget are nothing new; this is the 20th time in the last 23 years that the VA budget has not been approved by the start of the fiscal year. Failure to act on time, which can be disruptive to medical budgets, led every major veterans organization to make the advance funding bill their top legislative priority for the year.
The bill, HR 1016, passed the Senate by voice vote and with no debate. The House of Representatives gave final approval to the bill Oct. 8 with a 409-1 vote.
President Barack Obama endorsed the idea of advanced VA appropriations in April, and is expected to sign the bill.
The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 provides funding one year in advance for veterans medical programs so there will be no lapse if Congress fails to approve the traditional budget by the start of the fiscal year. Advance funding for medical services, facilities and research programs takes effect with the fiscal 2011 budget, assuming Congress provides promised money in the 2010 budget that also covers those programs for 2011.
To ensure enough money is provided in advance, Congress approved a mechanism for the advance budget requiring VA to provide an estimate that is reviewed for accuracy by the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan arm of Congress. A copy of the review will be made available to the public, which is why the word “transparency” is included in the bill’s name.