Sen. Coburn: CBO Price Tag for Veterans' Care 'Ludicrous'

Image: Sen. Coburn: CBO Price Tag for Veterans' Care 'Ludicrous'

Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 06:21 PM

By Greg Richter

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As the Senate mulls possible confirmation hearings for Veterans Affairs secretary nominee Robert McDonald, Sen. Tom Coburn says a bigger concern is the amount of money requested to help veterans receive medical care at non-VA facilities.

The Congressional Budget Office has said that providing such care would cost an additional $54 billion. It made the estimate as Congress worked on a bipartisan bill to speed up care amid the VA scandal in which veterans were delayed care while put on secret waiting lists.

Appearing Wednesday on Fox News Channel's "Your World with Neil Cavuto," Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, called the $54 billion estimate "not anywhere close to accurate" because it far exceeds the amount currently being spent on veterans' care.

"I can tell you as an accountant and a doctor that is absolutely ludicrous," Coburn said, "and I won't vote for any bill that adds another dollar to the VA that isn't offset from somewhere in the government."

The VA budget has increased 60 percent over the last four years, Coburn said, so the problem isn't about money. Rather, he said, it is a problem of "accountability, efficiency and hard work."

Coburn is retiring from the Senate this year, but is known for his annual report on waste and fraud in government.

Minutes before his Fox News appearance, Coburn told CNN's Jake Tapper that the $3.7 billion requested by President Barack Obama to help with the crisis of unaccompanied Central American children flooding the border is too much.

Coburn wants to amend a 2008 law that prevents immediate deportation of illegal immigrants from countries that don't share a border with the United States, to allow for most to be returned straight to their home countries.

"The president just asked for $3.7 billion. For less than $20 million we can fly them all back first-class," Coburn told CNN.

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