Vets Fear VA Scandal Solutions Could Cause More Harm

Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 07:42 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Congressional measures born out of the Veterans Affair delay-in-care scandal that would allow ailing vets seek care at non-VA facilities could cost $54 billion a year —  and veterans’ organizations worry that may put existing services at risk.

Executives of 17 major veterans groups and military associations have written lawmakers on the House and Senate veterans affairs committees mulling versions of a new bill to press their concerns, Stars and Stripes reported Thursday.

Plans are to have a final bill to President Obama by July 4.

"While we appreciate the speed with which you have moved, the opportunity for veterans organizations and other key stakeholders to provide substantive input to the process has been limited," the letter warned, according to the newspaper.

Revelations of widespread delays in providing healthcare to veterans that in some cases led to fatalities has embarrassed President Barack Obama, and cost former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki his job.

The Congressional Budget Office has said the bill would provide "broad new authority" that would attract about 2 million more vets to enroll in VA care, shifting in from Medicare or Medicaid. And the 8.3 million veterans already enrolled in VA care would seek to increase their use of VA care by about 75 percent, it also estimates.

"All told, if the bill was fully implemented, some veterans would ultimately seek additional care that would cost the federal government about $54 billion a year, after accounting for savings to other federal programs," the CBO said, Stars and Stripes reported.

The newspaper reported that vet groups said the prospect could make a bad situation worse.

"Unless additional funding is provided specifically for the expansion of purchased care, needed care will remain delayed and VA facilities will be forced to continue making tradeoffs," vet groups warned.

The House passed its bill unanimously. The Senate bill drew three "no" votes from Republicans Bob Corker of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who were concerned the measure would balloon VA health budgets, Stars and Stripes reported.

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