June 06, 2018

Ranking Member Walz Statement On VA MISSION Act Becoming Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN) released the following statement after the John S. McCain III, Daniel K. Akaka, and Samuel R. Johnson VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Networks Act of 2018, otherwise known as the VA MISSION Act of 2018, was signed into law:

“Ensuring veterans have access to high quality and timely healthcare is a moral obligation we all share in this country,” said Rep. Walz. “While the language in the VA MISSION Act will grant VA the authority to improve and consolidate its multiple community care initiatives, I remain deeply concerned by the bill’s lack of a sustainable funding source, and I am skeptical of the Trump Administration’s ability to implement the legislation successfully and responsibly.”

“Time and again, House Democrats have raised the alarm on the VA MISSION Act’s lack of a sustainable funding source, an issue the Washington Post reported on this morning. As it stands, current budget caps will not allow for this level of spending to occur without requiring deep cuts to existing VA programs. This means current programs investing in VA infrastructure, direct patient care, suicide prevention, medical research, job training, and many more vital veterans programs could face cuts in funding in order to pay for care in the community under this new plan, something the Veteran Service Organizations have warned against. This paints an unmistakable picture of a VA forced to cannibalize itself in order to pay for care in the private sector. Unfortunately, multiple amendments offered by my fellow Democrats and me to fix these funding issues have not been agreed to. Now, Congress will be forced to find a solution to this problem before the end of FY2019, in the meantime leaving veterans in the lurch.

“What’s more, the Trump Administration has failed to fill the VA leadership positions in charge of implementing this $47 billion community care overhaul. Not only has VA lacked a permanent VA Secretary for months, the department also lacks a permanent Under Secretary for Health as well as a Deputy Under Secretary for Community Care. In fact, four of the department’s six top posts are without a permanent appointee. Without qualified leaders filling these positions, it is likely that VA will waste precious resources and this new program will fail like the current Veterans’ Choice Program, where veterans still wait months to receive care and have difficulty navigating the programs complex requirements.

“Despite what President Trump may say, our efforts to get VA community care right for veterans is far from over. Veterans’ issues have always been bipartisan, and I stand ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass meaningful legislation fixing VA community care without putting other key VA programs and initiatives at risk in the process.”