Senators Stevens and Murkowski Cosponsor Bipartisan Bill to Guarantee Advance Funding of Veterans' Health Care
U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) joined Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, and a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing legislation today to secure timely funding of veterans' health care, through a process known as "advance funding." Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and John Thune (R-SD) also joined Akaka as original cosponsors.
Under the bill, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) would be funded one-year in advance. Currently, VHA is funded one-year at a time, and is too often the victim of delays and short-term budgets.
"This legislation will make sure the VA gets its money on time each year, so the health care needs of our veterans are always met," said Senator Stevens. "While my colleagues and I have sought to make sure the VA is properly funded over the years, that funding has frequently arrived late. If this bill becomes law, the VA will always have their health care funding on day one."
"We demand much of the veterans' healthcare delivery system in addressing the critical health issues presented by those who have just returned from Iraq and Afghanistan while at the same time continuing to serve the veterans of conflicts past," said Senator Murkowski. "For 19 of the past 21 years, Congress has failed to provide the VA with certainty about its funding levels at the beginning of the federal fiscal year. There is considerable uncertainty over whether Congress will be able to conclude the VA appropriations bill before we leave this year. We expect the VA to step up and address health challenges like traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorders, the challenges of serving veterans in rural America and the unique issues that affect female veterans but make them wait interminably for the increased funding levels to which they are legitimately entitled. This is a budget process that must be reformed."
Advance funding has been used to fund programs such as Section 8 housing vouchers, and the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Under the proposed legislation, veterans' health care would go through the same process as these entities, thus securing timely funding without making VA health care an entitlement. The advance funding bill would also increase transparency in the VA funding process, by requiring an annual GAO audit and public report on VA's funding forecasts.
The proposed advance funding legislation is also supported by The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform, which includes the following veterans service organizations: AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Paralyzed Veterans of America, The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Vietnam Veterans of America.