For more than 30 years, the co-authors of The Independent Budget—Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans), and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)—have presented our budget and policy recommendations to Congress and the Administration. Our recommendations are meant to inform Congress and the Administration of the needs of our members and all veterans and to offer substantive solutions to address the many health care and benefits challenges they face. This budget report serves as our benchmark for properly funding the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to ensure the delivery of timely, quality health care and accurate and appropriate benefits.
The Independent Budget veterans’ service organizations (IBVSOs) recognize that Congress and the Administration continue to face immense pressure to reduce federal spending. However, we believe that the ever-growing demand for health care and benefits services, particularly with more health care being provided in the community, provided by the VA certainly validates the continued need for sufficient funding. We understand that VA has fared better than most federal agencies in budget proposals and appropriations, but the real measure should be how well the funding matches the demand for veterans’ benefits and services.
We appreciate that Congress remains committed to doing the right thing and has continued to provide increases in appropriations dollars. However, the serious access problems in the health care system identified in 2014 and the continued pressure being placed on the claims processing system raise serious questions about the adequacy of resources being provided and how VA chooses to spend these resources.
The IBVSOs are jointly releasing this stand-alone report that focuses solely on the budget for VA and our projections for VA’s funding needs across all programs. This report is not meant to suggest that these are the absolute correct answers for funding these services. However, in submitting our recommendations the IBVSOs are attempting to produce an honest assessment of need that is not subject to the politics of federal budget development and negotiations that inevitably have led to continuous funding deficits.
Our recommendations include funding for all discretionary programs for FY 18 as well as advance appropriations recommendations for medical care accounts for FY 19. The FY 18 projections are particularly important because previous VA Secretary Robert McDonald admitted last year that the VA’s FY 18 advance appropriation request was not truly sufficient and would need significant additional resources provided this year. We hope that Congress will take this defined shortfall very seriously and appropriately address this need. Our own FY 18 estimates affirm this need.
We hope that the House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs as well as the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs Appropriations Subcommittees will be guided by these estimates in making their decisions to ensure sufficient, timely, and predictable funding for VA.