WASHINGTON — Rep. Julia Brownley’s first bill as a member of Congress has run into opposition from the Department of Veterans Affairs but has won the backing of a coalition of veterans’ advocacy groups.
A top VA official told a congressional committee on Wednesday the agency does not support Brownley’s push to make permanent a requirement that the Government Accountability Office verify the accuracy of the VA’s health-care budget.
The reporting requirement is already in place but will expire at the end of the year unless Congress extends it.
“VA does not support making these reports permanent,” Robert D. Snyder, acting assistant secretary of the VA’s Office of Policy and Planning, testified during a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Brownley, a Westlake Village Democrat, said making the reporting requirement permanent is needed to help Congress evaluate the administration’s budget projections and guarantee adequate funding for veterans’ health-care benefits.
Under then-President George W. Bush, the administration’s budget request for VA health care was not sufficient to meet veterans’ needs in 2006, 2007 and 2008, Brownley said. As a result, Congress had to pass supplemental funding bills to ensure veterans had basic health care.
“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,” Brownley said during the hearing.
“We owe it to our current and future veterans to ensure the VA never again runs low on sources to provide health care to our veterans. They risked their lives to serve our country. Our job is to ensure that we take care of them at home.”
Snyder said the VA gives Congress more budget documentation than it did when the reporting requirement was put in place in 2011 and includes additional information requested by Congress. The VA believes that, along with congressional oversight of the VA, provides ample review of the agency’s budget request, he said
A coalition of veterans’ services groups that puts together a document every year detailing the VA’s funding needs endorsed Brownley’s proposal.
In reviewing the VA budget, the Government Accountability Office has in past years uncovered unjustified and questionable spending reductions proposed by the agency, said Carl Blake of Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Blake was speaking on behalf The Independent Budget, whose authors include groups such as Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Veterans, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars.