Budget Shortfall Threatens Veterans Health Care

June 26, 2015

The VA is facing a $2.6 billion budget deficit this year, according to VA officials. Sloan Gibson, Deputy Secretary of the VA, told lawmakers the department needs the money to bridge the gap of the projected shortfall.

According to Gibson, the budget deficit is largely a result of increased demand for care outside of VA facilities and the rising costs of expensive hepatitis C treatments. A full round of hepatitis C treatments can run upwards of $100,000.

But Congress may not be so quick to hand over the money. Citing a "startling lack of transparency and accountability," House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) told Gibson he was frustrated with cost overruns and delays with other VA projects, notably construction projects at medical facilities in Colorado.

VA officials also discussed their efforts to improve Community Care Programs.  Including the Veterans Choice Program, seven different programs provide non-VA care. Each program comes with a different authorization process and a different set of authorities.   

Gibson stressed that the outside care programs need to be reconciled and streamlined. He also asked the committee to remove some of the congressionally placed restrictions on how the VA can spend money on Community Care Programs. Without the budget flexibility, Gibson said the VA "will have to deny care to veterans, a position we don't want to be in."   

MOAA believes Congress must work with the VA to ensure the department has the necessary resources to meet veterans' health care needs.