WASHINGTON, July 23 – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today welcomed a plea by major veterans’ service organizations for Congress to give the Department of Veterans Affairs the resources it needs to provide quality, timely health care.
“Congress has a sacred obligation to provide VA with the funds it requires to meet both immediate needs through non-VA care and future needs by expanding VA’s internal capacity,” the letter from the leaders of 16 major organizations representing millions of veterans. The letter was sent to Sanders and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Reps. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) and Mike Michaud (D-Maine), the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House veterans committees.
The statement comes as Senate and House negotiators are attempting to work out differences in House and Senate VA reform bills.
The Senate voted 93-3 on June 11 for a compromise bill by Sanders and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to hire more doctors and nurses, let veterans facing long delays at VA facilities to get private care and to hold VA officials accountable for trying to conceal patient wait times. Weeks of negotiations with the House so far have not led to an agreement.
“Republicans wanted the resignation of General Shinseki. They got it. They supported the nomination of Sloan Gibson as deputy VA secretary. They got it. Sadly, they continue to oppose what he says is needed to rebuild the VA by hiring enough doctors and nurses. Now the VFW and other major veterans’ organizations have made it clear that they also believe that additional resources are needed if the VA is to provide timely, quality care.”
The letter to Sanders and the other key veterans committee lawmakers was signed by representatives of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officers Association, VetsFirst, Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service, the United States Army Warrant Officers Association, the Air Force Sergeants Association, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Association of the U.S. Navy, the Military Chaplain Association of the United States, the Jewish War Veterans of the USA and the Marine Corps League.
“In contrast to the legislative proposal in the Conference Committee which would require months to promulgate new regulations, establish new procedures and set up new offices, the VA proposal could have an immediate impact on increasing access to care for veterans today…” the letter said.
“As the leaders of organizations representing millions of veterans, we agree with Secretary Gibson that there is a need to provide VA with additional resources now to ensure that veterans can access the health care they have earned, either from VA providers or through non-VA purchased care.”
“We urge Congress to expeditiously approve supplemental funding that fully addresses the critical needs outlined by Secretary Gibson either prior to, or at the same time as, any compromise legislation that may be reported out of the House-Senate Conference Committee.”
To read the letter, click here.