Tester to offer amendment addressing $2.5 billion VA funding crisis

Tester urges swift action to avoid devastating impact to veterans

(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester will offer an amendment during tomorrow’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee markup to address the $2.5 billion funding crisis that could cause the VA to turn veterans away from accessing the care they have earned.

According to the VA, a rising number of veterans who are receiving care outside the VA system and an increase in the number of veterans seeking care for Hepatitis C are causing a budget shortfall of over $2.5 billion this fiscal year. VA officials have told Tester that their inability to transfer money from the Choice Program to the VA’s medical services account to support the growing number of veterans receiving care in the community is causing a budget crisis. If the funding issue is not immediately addressed, VA facilities could be closed, staff may be furloughed, and more and more veterans could have their care delayed or possibly denied in August.

“The urgency of this matter cannot be overstated. Putting our frustrations with the VA aside, let’s do right by our veterans and take this critical step to prevent a disruption in the care they have earned,” Tester said. “They deserve no less.”

Tester’s amendment will provide the VA the funding flexibility it needs to serve veterans by allowing the VA to use $3 billion that is set aside for the Choice Program to pay for care in the community. Tester’s amendment will not increase spending at the VA, but rather allow the VA to access money that was already appropriated through the Choice Act. Tester’s amendment also requires the VA to develop a plan to streamline all its non-VA care programs which would help prevent this problem from occurring again next year.

Tester also pointed out that Senate Republicans passed Appropriations bills this year that underfund the VA by more than $850 million next year while also increasing funding for overseas military operations by $40 billion. The proposal from House Republicans underfunds the VA by more than $1 billion.

Tester, a senior member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, helped author the Veterans’ Choice Act last year and recently introduced the DOCS for Veterans’ Act to help recruit and retain VA health care professionals in rural America.