VA Budget Request 2007: The 'Good, the Bad and the Foggy,' Says the American LegionAs you can see we didn't get into this mess overnight and that is the biggest problem of all.
Ramona E. Joyce, Joe March
U.S. Newswire (press release)
Feb 08, 2006
President Bush's VA budget request for 2007 has been hailed for adding nearly $3 billion in real appropriations for veterans health care, compared to 2006. "That," said American Legion National Commander Thomas L. Bock, "is the good."
However, he added, it's a budget request built on charging new annual enrollment fees for VA care, nearly doubling drug co- payments and driving 1.2 million veterans out of the system created specifically for them.
"That," Bock explained, "is the bad."
Bock added that the budget request still relies on $1.1 billion in cost-saving "efficiencies" -- the subject of a Government Accountability Office report released last week that criticized past VA health-care projections from the president's Office of Management and Budget -- and also how realistic it is for the president to expect dramatic improvements in VA's ability to collect payments from insurance companies, especially since VA is prohibited by Congress to bill Medicare.
"Those are some of the foggy parts," Bock said.
Overall, Bock said the 2007 budget request from the White House appears to be an improvement over previous years when VA health care suffered due to inaccurate patient-demand projections, faulty assumptions, budgets offset by nebulous "management efficiencies" and unattainable third-party collections.
"This budget request indeed has glitter," Bock said. "But I am not yet sure how much of it is gold. It is a budget request that appears to table long-needed construction dollars, particularly in the area of grants for state veterans homes and leaves CARES (Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services) under-funded again. It takes a $13 million bite out of VA research. It also fails to provide sufficient funds for staffing and training in the Veterans Benefits Administration to address a claims backlog fast approaching one million."
Bock said he sees the estimate of 109,000 new VA patients in 2007 from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a step toward better forecasting. "The under-estimated number of VA patients from the ongoing war contributed mightily to the $1.5 billion budget shortfall for VA health care in 2005," Bock said. "This appears to address that." He also applauded a requested increase in mental-health-care funding, from $2.8 billion to $3.2 billion.
The commander reiterated that he cannot accept a budget that deliberately aims to send more than one million veterans out of the VA system in search of health care elsewhere. A chart in the president's budget request anticipates approximately 1.2 million fewer veterans in Priority Groups 7 and 8 in 2007. Those groups are forced in this budget request to pay new $250 enrollment fees and nearly double in pharmaceutical co-payments.
"I know many, many veterans in Groups 7 and 8 who have five, seven, 10 or more prescriptions," Bock said.
"Doubling their co-payments, while they are trying to get by on fixed incomes or small pensions, is enough to break them. I cannot abide by a policy that pits veterans against veterans where the government decides who shall have care and who shall be denied."
Bock said the 2.7 million-member American Legion stands firm in its position that the only way VA health care can avoid annual shortages and broken promises is by changing the funding formula. "Assured or mandatory funding would keep all the veterans who earned VA care in the system," Bock said. "VA health care must be funded on a dollars-per-veteran basis, indexed annually for inflation, with the ability to bill Medicare for reimbursement."
The president's request also weighs in with what Bock calls a "highly ambitious" increase in third-party collections from insurance companies. "VA's estimate for third-party collections in 2006 was ambitious at just over $2 billion," Bock said. "This budget request envisions almost $800 million more than that."
Even House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer, R- Ind., would consider the collection of nearly $3 billion from insurance companies an ambitious goal. Buyer noted in early 2005 that VA's collection assumptions were "proven to be in error. The VA has $3 billion in uncollected debts." "Veterans should not be targeted," Bock said. "I call on Chairman Buyer in this week's hearings to give VA health care a funding formula that cuts through the fog and assures veterans the health-care system they deserve."
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Today's VA news reports tied to past sins
Reporters forget about how we got into this mess in the first place with VA claims. But that isn't anything new. I was going over my older blog looking for reports to counter another report that is wrong but no one is challenging when I came across this. It goes back to 2006 and has contributed to the suffering of too many veterans because sending men and women into combat never seems to include them getting wounded or becoming veterans in need of care.