Advancing Vet Health Funding

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, led a bipartisan group of Senators in support of new legislation that would provide “advance funding’ for veterans’ health care. In a Sept. 18 statement, Akaka called the funding for the nation’s largest health care system—that run by the Department of Veterans Affairs—”untimely and unpredicatable” and urged passage of a measure that would provide future VA funding one-year in advance. He said such advance funding would be “better for veterans, taxpayers, and VA.” Joining Akaka as original co-sponsors are Sen. Olympia Snow (R-Maine), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) Snowe noted in the statement that over the six years, VA annual funding has been delayed “on average until more than three months after the start of the new fiscal year.” Using an advance funding process is not new, according to the committee statement, which stated it had been used for such programs as Section 8 housing vouchers and low income heating assistance. It would also come with a requirement for an annual Government Accounting Office audit and report on VA funding forecasts. There is concern, once again, that Congress will not be able to complete VA spending legislation this year before it adjourns.