Washington Fails to Pay for Most New VA Spending

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On Thursday President Obama is scheduled to sign “emergency” spending legislation on health care for veterans that will unfortunately add an estimated $10 billion to the deficit over the next decade.

The House and Senate passed the measure last week after failing to find a more responsible way to pay for improvements in care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, Concord Coalition Policy Director Joshua Gordon has argued that the whole congressional strategy is misguided, in part because in trying to fix access problems, it sacrifices a VA strength: care coordination.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said the $16.3 billion measure includes $10 billion to provide health care outside VA facilities, $5 billion to recruit more health care providers, and $1.3 billion to lease 27 new clinics.

His summary of the legislation says some costs would be offset by about $6 billion in savings from other programs. But lawmakers ducked the pay-as-you-go principle for most of the new spending by calling it “emergency” funding — even though many items such as hiring and facilities expansion should have been handled through the regular appropriations process.

External links:
Sen. Sanders’ Press Release and Summary of VA Legislation
July 29 Analysis of Conference Agreement (CBO)
Veterans Health Care Bill Moves in Wrong Direction (Concord Coalition Blog)

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