Winding Road to Fix the VA

August 7, 2015

Shortly before heading into a month long recess, Congress provided the VA with the $3.3 billion needed to keep hospitals open through the rest of the year. 

The measure, attached to a highway funding bill, helps address a budget crisis that has been brewing this year due to increased demand from veterans for health care.

Last week, VA Secretary Bob McDonald told lawmakers that despite the increased funding in VA health care, he lacked the authority to spend the money where it is needed most.

“This legislation addresses the VA's budget shortfall by reorganizing money [the VA] already [has] to better meet the needs of veterans,” said Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).

Relief comes just days before the VA would be forced to close medical facilities, disrupting health care for millions of veterans. 

The bill also contains important changes to the Choice Program, such as allowing the agency to waive the current 30-day wait time for veterans, increasing the number of providers in the program, and changing the distance requirements for receiving care. 

The VA must provide a plan to Congress by Nov. 1 on how it will consolidate all non-VA care programs into one program.