Joint Statement from the Air Force Association (AFA), Association of the United States Navy (AUSN), Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), The Flag and General Officers Network (TFGON), Military Order of the World Wars (MOWW), National Defense Committee (NDC), Square Deal for Veterans (SD4V), the Travis Manion Foundation, and VetsFirst.
As organizations who represent and support the interests of America’s 21 million veterans, and in fulfillment of our mandate to ensure that the men and women who served receive the health care and benefits they need and deserve, we are calling on Members of Congress to quickly pass the crucial VA Choice funding legislation.
While we are deeply concerned over the lack of accountability in the Department’s accounting that led to this issue arising so abruptly, we reject the argument that this legislation only funds additional community care options, at the expense of the Veterans Health Administration. Often, specific parts of the overall VA programs are funded or authorized by individual bills, rather than broad omnibus legislation. That is the case here, and to argue the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is being robbed to pay for immediate, emergency funding of veterans health care is unfair to the work Congress did to fund VHA.
From 2010 to 2016, VA medical care funding (without community care costs) increased almost $17 billion, a 35% increase. In the Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations Act the House of Representatives is expected to vote this week, the Veterans Health Administration budget is increased another $3.9 billion. Due to the support and advocacy of many veterans organizations and Congress, the Veterans Health Administration has received substantial increases in funding.
The fact is, VA needs community care programs to take care of our nations veterans. Even with all the additional funding provided the Veterans Health Administration, many veterans need community care either because the VA cannot treat their ailments, or because they do not live near a VA facility. Veterans deserve continued care by extending the funding for VA Choice for simply six months.
The choice facing Congress now is clear – provide the additional funds for the next six months while this Administration and Congress continues to work on VA community care reform proposals, or effectively kill the VA Choice program and deny veterans their care. If this funding is not extended:
• Nine million enrolled veterans eligible for the Veterans Choice Program will lose access to care in the community;
• More than 170,000 veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility will lose access to community care;
This situation and must be remedied immediately. What is most important is we keep VA Choice operating while long-term reforms are determined. We call on Congress to immediately pass this critical funding.