Reps. McNerney, Denham, and Del. Aumua Send Letter to VA Secretary on VA Choice and Budget Shortfall
Washington – Yesterday, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-10), and Delegate Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (American Samoa-At Large) sent a bipartisan letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald regarding the Veterans Choice Program and the VA’s $3 billion shortfall in the FY 2015 budget. The letter calls upon Secretary McDonald to put together a plan of action to address how the VA will change its business practices and better forecast its budget to avoid dramatic shortfalls that could delay health care services in the future.
Full text of the letter:
July 28, 2015
The Honorable Robert A. McDonald
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420
Dear Secretary McDonald:
As a result of extended delays in patient care by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system, Congress passed the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-146), which created the Veterans Choice Program. This provision was intended to provide veterans with flexibility in meeting their health care needs inside and outside of the VA system.
On July 13, 2015, VA stated in a letter to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs that it is facing a $3 billion shortfall in the FY 2015 budget and that funds from the Choice Program would have to cover the gap in funding or VA would face shutting down hospital operations during August 2015. The cause of this shortfall must be identified and steps taken to prevent any repeat, but we cannot allow for any VA hospitals to close.
We know your commitment to our nation’s veterans remains steadfast, which is why we call upon you to hold the senior management employee or employees responsible for this shortfall in the FY 2015 budget accountable. From the construction cost overruns in the hundreds of millions in Denver to the backlog in disability claims it is apparent that there are significant structural challenges within the VA and more accountability is crucial.
The VA must take important actions now if the health care system is to remain effective in the 21st Century. There is a role for increased public and private partnerships in the building of future major construction projects at the VA and the agency should continue exploring how best to address this issue. Furthermore, VA must clearly articulate the challenges it is facing. A review of VA operations throughout the Department is desperately needed as the current structure has proven inadequate for our veterans.
We call upon you to put together a plan of action on how the VA is going to change its business practices and better forecast the budget so that it can avoid dramatic shortfalls in the future. The men and women who served this nation deserve no less. We look forward to a prompt response by August 31, 2015. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Rep. Jerry McNerney Rep. Jeff Denham
Del. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen
Rep. Jerry McNerney proudly serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento Counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.