AFGE Urges Congress to Pass Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act

The American Federation of Government Employees

September 18, 2008, Washington, DC – The American Federation of Government Employees, (AFGE), which represents 180,000 employees throughout the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), today criticized the current discretionary VA funding process and urged Congress to move on the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act, H.R. 6939, a bill originally cosponsored by Congressmen Bob Filner (D-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Michael Michaud (D-ME), Phil Hare (D-IL) and Tim Walz (D-MN).

“The VA has been the crown jewel of the American health care system, but subjecting it to the political game playing of an unpredictable, delay-ridden funding process erodes patient access and quality of care, and leads to harmful short-sighted policies such as contracting out veterans’ health care at a time when veterans facing post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are especially in need of the specialized care of the VA,” said John Gage, AFGE national president.

The lack of predictability and methodology in the VA’s discretionary funding process also diminishes its ability to meet the growing demands arising from two wars and an aging patient population and to recruit and retain a stable and adequate health care professional workforce, address meaningful succession planning, or engage in strategic long range planning for additional aspects of health care delivery.

“The right of veterans to receive the specialized care of the VA cannot be fulfilled by a funding process driven by the winds of politics instead of the real needs of injured warriors,” Gage added. “The reason the VA is so successful at meeting the specialized health care needs of veterans is because the system is not motivated by profit. Continued use of the current broken funding process will expose it to more for-profit health care forces that could cause irreparable harm to this world-class system that has a unique ability to address the medical and mental health care needs of our veterans.

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