Dr. Coburn Opposes Amendment that Mismanages Veterans' Funding
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) issued the following statement today regarding his vote against an amendment offered by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill regarding funding for outpatient care and treatment for veterans.
"My support for veterans is unwavering and I believe keeping our commitment to those who risk all to fight for our freedom must be among the highest of our priorities. Unfortunately, the Akaka amendment was more about politicizing veterans' issues rather than addressing their real health care needs," Dr. Coburn said.
From the start of the fiscal year through March 2006, the number of patients the Veterans' Administration (VA) has treated is higher than what the agency expected, according to the agency. But the facts clearly show the money spent by the VA on such care is only 71 percent of what was expected at this time. That means the agency currently has about $600 million budgeted for care that hasn't been spent. Coupled with a $430 million contingency fund built into the VA's budget, the agency has a $1 billion surplus at its disposal, Dr. Coburn said. VA officials also have told congressional leaders they do not need additional funding for veterans care at this time.
"The facts clearly show the Senate has approved more than enough money to meet the health care needs of these veterans. This move was more about politics than addressing the real health care needs of veterans. It's sad the Senate chose to add to the future debt of our children and grandchildren under the guise of supporting veterans," Dr. Coburn said.
Dr. Coburn added that Congress improved the transparency of the VA budget process last year and the process has been a resounding success. This amendment would be a step backward in terms of Congress' stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
"As a practicing physician, it has been my honor to have personally cared for hundreds of Oklahoma veterans. We can and must improve veterans' health care by giving veterans greater control over the delivery of their care and by reducing costs, streamlining bureaucracy and encouraging the best medical practices," Dr. Coburn said.