Yes, I know the Middle East has gone bonkers (so, what’s new?) and the prez wants to address marriage but our Veterans are fighting a losing battle. Think we could step up to give them some support?
The media isn’t too keen on doing so and too many people don’t have a clue what’s going on with our Vets.
The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs met 2/17/11 to discuss the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs FY2012 Budget.
…First, I’m interested to learn how this budget will chart a path forward to address the broken disability claims system. Staffing for compensation claims has tripled since the late 1990’s, numerous Information Technology tools have been utilized, and there have been different organizational models attempted. Nothing has worked. I want to know how this budget takes a new approach to this challenge.
Second, I’m interested in learning how this budget is prioritized to meet the needs of family caregivers of severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
The reaction to VA’s initial plan to implement the new Family Caregiver law has been negative. I will explore ways we might be able to refocus resources for this important initiative.
Third, I’d like to know what energy went into eliminating wasteful, redundant spending. The President’s bipartisan Deficit Reduction Commission suggested that every agency, VA included, step up to the plate.
I have to say, when I look at this budget and I see that it proposes a funding level for the Office of the Secretary that is 41% higher than 2009 levels; 50% higher for the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs; 96% higher for the Office of Policy and Planning; and 140% higher for the Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs…it raises all kinds of red flags.
Finally, there are some curious new accounting mechanisms proposed in this budget. VA proposes that a portion of its 2012 medical care budget be classified as a ‘contingency fund.’
It also proposes that Congress appropriate money VA says it can save through management efficiencies so that it can then carry that money over into another fiscal year. These are new concepts that I’d like to get more detail on.
Mr. Secretary, we are all acutely aware of the fiscal and economic crisis our nation is in…debt of $14 Trillion, a deficit this year of $1.55 Trillion, unemployment hovering at just under ten percent.
We also are aware of the obligation we have to those who defend our freedoms every day. That is the privilege we all have in serving on this Committee. One measure of that obligation is how well we are addressing veterans’ needs through the programs and services administered by VA.
So, there is a balance that must be struck a balance that recognizes both the moral duty we have to care for those who served in uniform and the reality that funding for that care doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
Let me borrow a quote from recent history that touches on the challenge we face in finding that balance
‘[T]he Committee’s members have kept in mind the fiscal limitations within which we must operate if we are to get Federal spending under control and thereby reduce the Federal deficit and debt. We believe that the Government can be fiscally responsible while still fulfilling its commitments to the most deserving among us – including our Nation’s veterans. We also are mindful that uncontrolled Federal spending threatens the long-term health of the Nation’s economy and, in turn, could adversely affect the provision of veterans’ benefits. Thus, we recognize that those who have worn the uniform in defense of the Nation seek, as we do, to protect the health of Nation’s economy.’
Now, I know some listening might think I’m quoting from a Tea Party Committee.
No, these were views expressed in a letter signed by every member, Democrat and Republican, of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs back in 1997, including the current Chairman of that Committee.
I recognize that times are different now than they were then. We are now fighting a war on terrorism that has placed demands on VA’s medical and benefits system, so our priorities must obviously reflect that basic fact.
But here is another difference, the deficit then was only $128 billion, today it’s over 10 times larger.
Moving forward, I sincerely hope every member of this Committee can work together to find common ground on the difficult choices ahead. Together, I truly believe we can meet our commitments to veterans while also being mindful of our fiscal stewardship of taxpayer dollars.”
Nothing here that hasn’t been said before. Just change a few names.
What isn’t being said is that throwing good money after bad has never “fixed” anything.
“We will continue to wisely (ROFLMAO) use the funds that Congress appropriates for us to further improve the quality of life for Veterans and their families through the efficiency of our operations.”
“The department has created “a portfolio of initiatives” to improve the quality of VA care while making it easier for patients to access services. Primary care providers will put more emphasis upon disease prevention and healthy living. New technology – securing e-mails, social networking and telehealth – will be harnessed to meet the evolving needs of patients.”
“Reaffirmed his commitment to “break the back of the backlog” of claims from Veterans for disability compensation and pensions. VA’s goal is to provide Veterans with decisions on their claims within 125 days at a 98 percent accuracy rate by 2015.”
“Homelessness is both a housing and a health care issue. Our 2012 budget plan supports a comprehensive approach to eliminating Veterans’ homelessness by making key investments in homeless and mental health programs.”
VA will seek nearly $3.2 billion for the new fiscal year to operate and maintain its information technology (IT).
“IT is the key to bringing VA into the 21st century.” “It allows for the efficient delivery of health care and benefits.”
Nearly $590 million in major construction is included within next year’s budget request.
“This reflects the department’s continued commitment to provide quality health care and benefits through improving its facilities to be modern, safe and secure for Veterans.”
You can find further info on the VA budget here.
Yep, we’ve heard it all before, time and time again, and it’s still broken.
I could be real snarky about this, but I have to get ready for church. I think prayin’ some would be a bit more effective anyway.