A VA budget shortfall of $2.5 billion could force the Department of Veterans Affairs to shut down some hospitals as soon as next month. This veterans news came to light Monday when the VA told Congress it needed funding to cover shortfalls which are being caused by an increased demand by veterans for health care. Along with hospital closures, the VA may also be forced to implement furloughs, hiring freezes and other steps to close their $2.5 billion VA budget shortfall for this current budget year.
This latest veterans news comes on the heals of more bad news involving the Department of Veterans Affairs. About three weeks ago, VA news sources reported that there are more military veterans on waiting lists at the VA now than when the Veterans Health Administration scandal of 2014 brought about sweeping changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
As you can imagine, lawmakers in Congress were not happy to hear this news from Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson. They were even more critical that the agency did not anticipate or fix the budget shortfalls until this late in the current budget year.
According to one news report, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said he was troubled at "VA's continued lack of transparency and refusal to be forthright with Congress," but said, "veterans must not be penalized for VA's ongoing mismanagement."
"This is far from the first time VA has disclosed problems far too late and turned its blatant mismanagement into a fiscal emergency," Miller said Monday night. He called on President Barack Obama to "step up and become engaged" in order to "ensure VA's incompetence does not shut down hospitals and deny veterans the care they have earned."
The Department of Veterans Affairs came to Congress not seeking additional funds, but instead seeking flexibility to close their budget funding gap. The spending flexiblity the VA was seeking authority for involves the Veterans Choice program - a VA health program which is intended to make it easier for veterans to receive federally paid medical care from local doctors.
In order to avoid drastic measures such as shuddering the doors on VA hospitals, the VA asked for authority to use up to $3 billion from the new Veterans Choice program to close their budget gap.
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