Washington, D.C. — Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) championed her first bill, the “Veterans Healthcare Improvement Act” (H.R. 806) at a legislative hearing held by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Her legislation will help guarantee adequate resources for veterans’ healthcare benefits.

“We have a responsibility to take care of the men and women who served and sacrificed for our country,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “America’s veterans should always receive their health benefits in a timely and efficient manner.  I will continue working to ensure the Department of Veterans’ Affairs always has the resources it needs to provide the healthcare our veterans earned and deserve.”

Brownley’s bill would make permanent the Government Accountability Office reporting requirement which verifies the accuracy of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare budget. The reporting requirement helps Congress evaluate the accuracy of the Administration’s baseline budget projections each year to ensure adequate resources of VA healthcare programs.  Additionally, it provides more certainty for veterans’ healthcare resources by aiding the advance appropriations process.

See the Congresswoman’s full remarks below.

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Representative Julia Brownley (CA-26):

Thank you Chairman Miller and Ranking Member Michaud for holding this important full Veterans’ Affairs Committee legislative hearing.

H.R. 806, the Veterans Healthcare Improvement Act, was the very first bill that I introduced as a Member of the 113th Congress. 

I am grateful that the Full Committee is considering this critical legislation.

As Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Health, I believe it is vitally important to ensure adequate funding for veterans’ healthcare programs.

I am sure the Committee knows, in 2006, 2007, and 2008, the prior Administration’s budget request for VA healthcare was not sufficient to meet the needs of our veterans. 

The funding shortfall in those years forced Congress to provide supplemental appropriations to ensure the VA would have sufficient funds to continue to provide basic healthcare services to our nation’s veterans.

In 2009, Congress passed the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which provided for advance appropriations for Veterans Health Administration programs. 

To ensure the accuracy of the Administration’s advanced budget request, Congress also included a requirement for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the accuracy of the Administration’s advance budget projections.

Pursuant to this law, the GAO issued reports reviewing the 2011 and 2012 advance appropriations request for veterans’ healthcare.  It is my understanding that the 2013 report will soon be issued.

The GAO report has helped Congress and this committee to evaluate the accuracy of the Administration’s budget projections.  It also ensures the VA is functioning based off of accurate information. 

And most importantly, this GAO review has provided Congress with third-party, neutral assurance that the VA would not run out of money for veterans’ healthcare.

Unfortunately, this GAO reporting requirement is scheduled to sunset at the end of this calendar year. 

While the GAO reviews have largely confirmed that the current Administration is budgeting sufficient sums for veterans’ healthcare, I am concerned that – without this review – future budget projections could be inaccurate, and risk our ability to adequately meet the health needs of our men and women veterans.

We owe it to our current and future veterans to ensure the VA never again runs low on resources to provide healthcare to our veterans.  They risked their lives to serve our country.  Our job is to ensure that we take care of them at home.

Allowing this GAO review to sunset puts veterans’ healthcare in jeopardy.  We cannot take that risk.

With the draw-down of forces in Afghanistan, we will soon see a huge increase in the number of veterans accessing VA healthcare.  Now is not the time to eliminate the GAO review. 

That is why in February, I introduced H.R. 806, which makes permanent the requirement for GAO to review the accuracy of advance appropriations requests for veterans’ healthcare.

Passage of my bill will help Congress continue to evaluate the accuracy of the budgeting process, and most importantly, ensure our nation’s veterans receive vital healthcare services.

I am profoundly grateful for the service and sacrifices made by all of our nation’s veterans and their families. 

As members of this Committee, it is our duty to ensure veterans always receive the benefits they need in a timely and efficient manner. 

Again, I would like to thank the Chair, the ranking member, and the members of this committee for considering this important legislation. 

I would also like to thank all the Veterans Service Organizations here today who fight everyday on behalf of our nation’s veterans. 

I look forward to discussing this legislation further, and am happy to answer any questions.

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