CONGRESSMAN BISHOP STANDS UP FOR STRONGER VA, RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT FUNDING PROCESS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) spoke during the U.S. House of Representatives floor debate about the dire need to strengthen the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as return Congress to a responsible government funding process. The bill under debate, H.R. 3236, works to address a Department of Veterans Affairs $3.348 billion budget shortfall for veterans’ health care in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The measure would allow for the authorization of the $3.348 billion needed to address this shortfall to come from the “Choice Program” which is an emergency fund set up by Congress in 2014 to help ensure that Veterans can see a doctor in a timely manner. While the House-passed FY 2016 MilCon/VA appropriations bill adds $970 million for VA medical care advance appropriations within the FY 2015 bill, the amount still remains $330 million below the VA request – most likely leading to another budget shortfall in FY 2016.
“This situation is a prime example of how the sequester caps, imposed by the Budget Control Act and locked in by the Republican budget, constrain our ability to deal with issues responsibly and in a timely manner,” said Congressman Bishop. “It is well past time we come to the table to break the cycle of irresponsible funding levels shortchanging our veterans’ health care.”
Without this legislation, the VA could run out of money by September, potentially shuttering VA centers across the nation. Costs have exploded by more than 10% in the last year as a result of higher demand, while the budget increased by only 2.8%. Additionally, costs for treatments have increased. For example, due to new life-saving Hepatitis C medicine costing as much as $1,000 for a single pill, the VA’s $700 million FY 2015 budget for Hepatitis C medicine has already been exceeded with more than two months left in the fiscal year.
“Today’s bill is only a band-aid, a temporary solution, over budget caps. To be clear, we cannot continue to govern in this fashion. If we continue to ignore the new reality of increased demand and higher costs, delivery of health care services to millions of currently enrolled veterans, and the large number of new veterans seeking care, will be devastated for the foreseeable future,” concluded Bishop.
H.R. 3236 was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 385 to 34. To watch Congressman Bishop call for Congress to take the next step towards a more responsible government funding process, please click here.