VA Secretary to Tester: House VA funding bill would ‘cause veterans to suffer’

Senator calls out House for $1.4 billion cut to VA

(U.S. Senate) – During a hearing on the VA’s budget for 2016, Senator Tester learned that the U.S. House’s funding proposal for the VA would have devastating consequences on the care veterans receive.

The House VA Committee recently approved a budget proposal that would fund the VA $1.4 billion below what the VA says it needs to improve care for veterans nationwide.

Tester, Ranking Member of the Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee and Montana’s only member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called out the House for playing games with the care veterans receive and pointed out that the cuts come just as older veterans, particularly Vietnam veterans, are reaching out to the VA for care.

“There are some who have criticized the VA for not being frank about what you need. And now a lot of the folks who demanded more results from you are the same folks who refuse to give you the flexibility and resources you need to achieve the results that our veterans need when they come to see you,” Tester said in the hearing.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald echoed the Senator’s frustrations about the House’s funding bill and said it would greatly reduce care.

“It is inadequate. It will cause veterans to suffer,” Secretary McDonald said. “In addition to the budget itself, we wanted flexibility to be able to move money, because we can’t predict whether veterans are going to go with community care with the Choice Act or whether they’re going to go with VA care.”

“The $1.4 billion spending cut means that less veterans are going to get care. The medical care has been cut by $690 million, which is the equivalent of 70,000 fewer veterans receiving VA medical care,” McDonald continued.

Earlier this month, Tester and McDonald toured VA Montana facilities and heard directly from VA officials and veterans about the quality of care at Fort Harrison, the Missoula outpatient clinic, and the Billings VA Clinic.