Congress should find a responsible way to address treatment delays at VA facilities, but it seems increasingly clear that this will be an expensive undertaking.
Sloan Gibson, acting secretary of Veterans Affairs, says his department needs $17.6 billion through Fiscal 2017 for additional staff, space, information technology and benefits processing.
Some lawmakers are skeptical. But the Congressional Budget Office says House and Senate VA bills would potentially increase deficits by $32 billion or more. This is down from earlier estimates but still represents a funding challenge.
House-Senate negotiations over the bills continue, with some lawmakers seeking emergency designations to avoid spending caps. There’s little justification for that; these problems have been building for years.
And as Concord Coalition Policy Director Josh Gordon noted in a blog post last month, many lawmakers have not given sufficient thought to what changes in veterans’ care really make sense.
July 16 Testimony by Acting Secretary Gibson (VA Press Release)
Recent Analyses and Cost Estimates for VA Legislation (CBO)
Veterans Health Care Bill Moves in Wrong Direction (Concord Coalition Blog)