Washington, DC – Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee, introduced two bills yesterday to ensure that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has the resources it needs to care for America’s heroes.
The “Veterans Healthcare Improvement Act” would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct an independent audit of VA’s medical care budget so that Congress can ensure there are enough resources for veterans to get the care they’ve earned and deserve. The “Build a Better VA Act” would fix a bureaucratic budgeting rule that is an unnecessary roadblock to quickly expanding veterans’ access to VA care in underserved communities across the nation.
“This week, President Trump released limited details on his proposal for next year’s budget, and there are many unanswered questions about whether his VA healthcare budget is adequate to uphold the promises we have made to our nation’s heroes,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “It is imperative that VA’s budget is sufficient to meet the healthcare needs of our veterans and that it provides sufficient funds to upgrade and replace outdated facilities. VA must also be nimble and have the legal authority necessary to open new community clinics in areas of greatest need. That’s why I introduced legislation that will help us better ensure VA has the funds it needs to serve our veterans and to cut through bureaucracy that is making it harder to get care to some of our most vulnerable and underserved veterans. We have a responsibility to the men and women who served our nation, and these bills will help us uphold our commitments.”
Veterans Healthcare Improvement Act
In 2006, 2007, and 2008, VA ran out of money, requiring emergency supplemental appropriations, because VA’s budget underestimated the influx of new veterans needing care. To ensure this never happened again, Congress passed a law in 2009 requiring GAO to provide an independent analysis of the Department’s healthcare funding needs. That requirement expired in 2013, and in the years since, VA has again run low on funds – threatening access to care for many veterans. The Veterans Healthcare Improvement Act would bring back this neutral GAO assessment so that Congress can better ensure VA has the resources necessary to support the care America’s veterans have earned and deserve.
Build a Better VA Act
Every major VA medical facility lease — those with yearly rental costs over $1 million — must be authorized by Congress, and for many years, this was done routinely. However, bureaucratic budget battles in Congress have prevented these routine authorizations from moving forward in recent years. The Build a Better VA Act would eliminate this roadblock, allowing major medical facility leases to be authorized by resolution rather than legislation – the same process currently used for other agency leases that are executed by the General Services Administration. By cutting through the bureaucracy that holds up new leases, this bill will help ensure that veterans can access the care they need, especially in underserved communities.