Trump in cross hairs as veterans' group slams VA Choice funding plan

Bruno Cirelli
Luglio 25, 2017

The House has rejected legislation to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to shift $2 billion from other programs to cover a sudden budget shortfall in its Choice program of private-sector care.

"For the first time in history of our GI Bill, future beneficiaries and some veterans will be able to carry these benefits with them throughout their life", said House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), the author of the legislation. The plan would trim pensions for some veterans and collect fees for housing loans guaranteed by the VA.

If the house does not find a way to pass the bill before the August recess, the Veterans choice program will run out of funding completely by mid-August.

Representative Tim Walz of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Veterans Committee, criticized the planned cuts to other parts of the VA and cited the extraordinary level of opposition from veterans groups. The legislation also provides increased resources and authority for educational assistance to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, computer programming and career technical training. But he asked congressmen to work with senators and veterans groups this week on a solution that they all could agree on.

The groups, representing 21 million veterans, said the legislation is "unacceptable" because it would divert tax dollars from Department of Veterans Affairs programs without addressing other critical problems in the VA system.

The request came in a joint statement from AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association, Military Officers Association of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America and Wounded Warrior Project. Without the congressional authority to transfer funds from one account to another, the department predicted it would run out of money to pay for veterans' care in the community before the end of the fiscal year.

There are more than 200,000 veterans in the state.

But those opposed like Democratic Congressman Mark Takano argued that the bill violates President Donald Trump's campaign promise to keep the VA system public. He encouraged the thousands of VFW members in attendance to call their congressmen and led them in chanting, "No". He wrote the same in a column published in USA Today on Monday.

Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014, as the VA's more than 1,200 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care.

The VA has an annual budget of almost $167 billion. "For those who don't understand what this budget shows and say that this is a budget that supports privatization, just take a look at the numbers".

Some members of Congress are concerned by the VSOs' opposition. "They spread false information about Chairman Roe's proposal in a transparent attempt to tie this bill to unnecessary VA spending". The bill also includes my bipartisan legislation that allows those on the Fry Scholarship to be eligible for the Yellow Ribbon Program was included as a key provision of this package.

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