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Veterans' Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

VETERANS HEALTH CARE BUDGET REFORM AND TRANSPARENCY ACT OF 2009 -- (House of Representatives - June 23, 2009)


Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, this is undoubtedly one of the most significant bills that this Congress will pass in this or any other session. The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act was introduced in February, and this bipartisan measure is a response to years of chronic underfunding of the VA medical care system.

During the last two decades, the VA budget has been in place at the start of the fiscal year barely four times. We all know that this delay in providing vital funding puts the provision of health care to veterans at a risk and hampers the VA's ability to plan its health care expenditures, hire needed health care professionals, and plan needed construction.

In an unprecedented step, nine veterans groups formed the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform. These groups, including The American Legion, AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Vietnam Veterans of America, formed to advocate for a VA health care budget that is sufficient, timely, and predictable.

These groups put forward the idea that resources for VA health care should be provided through advanced appropriations so that when the fiscal year starts on October 1, the VA will know what its budget is a year in advance. That is what will happen when H.R. 1016 passes. It will ensure the VA can best plan and utilize taxpayer dollars to provide veterans with the health care they have earned and deserved. It provides the framework with which we can realize advanced appropriations for VA medical care accounts.

As part of the annual budget submission, the President will be required to submit a request for certain VA accounts for the fiscal year following the fiscal year for which the budget is submitted. As part of the administration's FY 2011 budget, the President will include budget estimates for VA medical care, information technology, and medical and prosthetic research accounts for FY 2012. The VA will be required to provide detailed estimates in the budget documents it submits annually to Congress.

Each July, the VA will be required to report to Congress if it has the resources it needs for the upcoming fiscal year in order for the Congress to address any funding imbalances. This will help to safeguard against the VA facing budget shortfalls such as it did just a few years ago.

H.R. 1016 provides the framework for advanced appropriations, and we look to our colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to provide the dollars. I want to express our thanks to our colleague, CHET EDWARDS, who chairs the Military Construction/VA Subcommittee, for providing advanced funding for the VA medical care accounts for 2011, providing for an 8 percent increase for fiscal year 2011 above the historic fiscal year 2010 levels.

I want to thank also Chairman Obey for supporting advanced appropriations and Chairman Spratt of the Budget Committee for including advanced appropriations language in his budget resolution.

All of us, working together, have succeeded in providing veterans with their top legislative priority. They spoke and we listened. I ask the rest of the House to join us in support of this bill, H.R. 1016, which passed unanimously from the Veterans' Affairs Committee last week.


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