Tester: VA spending bill drastically underfunds veterans care
Senator: ‘Now is not the time to take a step backwards’
(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester is urging his colleagues to oppose a VA funding bill that drastically underfunds veterans care and instead pass a bill that better reflects the true needs of America’s veterans.
Tester, speaking from the Senate floor, said that the current VA funding bill underfunds the VA by almost $1 billion, threatening the care and services that veterans have earned and undermines the sweeping VA reforms that Congress passed a year ago.
“Today, we are asking more and more of the VA and this bill gives the department less than it needs,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the VA. “Now is not the time to take a step backwards, because if we do that, we’re never going to catch up.”
In May, Tester offered an amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee to increase funding for the VA at a level that better reflected what department officials say is needed to care for veterans. His amendment failed on a 16-14 party line vote after opposition from every Republican on the Committee.
The current VA funding bill imposes devastating cuts known as sequestration. If this bill is enacted, that could mean 68,500 fewer veterans receiving the VA medical care they need next year. The bill is opposed by the American Legion.
Tester earlier this year called out the majority for circumventing its own sequestration cuts and funneling $40 billion into a Pentagon spending account, while greatly underfunding the VA.
“Our commitment to our veterans is a cost of war that we should take into account before we ever ask our troops to go into harm’s way,” said Tester, a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Many of the folks who support underfunding the VA had no trouble voting to put two wars on a credit card. That’s completely unacceptable.”
Tester for months has called on Congressional leaders to reach a budget deal that prevents sequestration and invests in middle-class families, veterans, national security, infrastructure, education, and public lands.