Photos from the event
(WASHINGTON) – Today, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the nine veterans’ service groups which comprise The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform applaud the chairs of the House and Senate VA Committees and other bill co-sponsors for introducing legislation aimed at reforming the Veterans Affairs (VA) funding process. For more than 20 years, AFGE has advocated for substantial reform in the VA funding process. AFGE applauds these members of Congress for their commitment to the VA, its patients, and its employees.
The advanced appropriations bill, which is supported by the president, will end the unpredictability and inadequacy of the VA’s discretionary funding process, by allowing Congress to provide health care dollars to the VA in advance. In a letter to AFGE during the campaign, then candidate Obama wrote, “My administration will recommend passage of advanced appropriation legislation for the FY 2010 appropriations cycle, instead of the yearly continuing resolutions that lead to delays in hiring and facility construction.”
AFGE and it 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.