In testimony before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, VA Secretary Bob McDonald once again called upon Congress to provide him with necessary budget flexibility to meet the increased demands placed on the VA system. Since initially asking for this authority in February, IAVA has consistently supported the VA Secretary’s request to have the tools necessary to provide quality and timely access to care for our veterans when and where they need it most.
Due to McDonald’s leadership and hard work, the VA has increased veterans’ access to care and completed seven million more appointments this year than last: 2.5 million at VA and 4.5 million in the community. VA Care in the Community authorizations have also increased by 44 percent since the new leadership team has come on board — 900,000 more authorizations than the previous year.
Unfortunately, these increases in appointments come with a cost. Due to the inflexibility of the current budget, VA does not have the ability spend money from the underutilized choice program to pay for Care in the Community provided by other programs. The lack of flexibility has tied Secretary McDonald’s hands and Congress must act quickly to provide the necessary budget flexibility to make sure that there is no impact on the services the VA provides.
The flexibility that IAVA and our veteran partners are seeking on behalf of Secretary McDonald is a common sense approach to serving our community at no additional cost to taxpayers. IAVA urges Congress to provide the budget flexibility VA requires in order to provide quality care that is efficient for our veterans. Such flexibility would also avoid a forced shutdown of VA operations, which would eliminate vital and lifesaving healthcare services to hundreds of thousands of veterans.
VA plan to transfer $3 billion in Choice Card funds to cover the FY15 shortfall is backed by IAVA’s fellow veteran service organizations: