VA Funds and Syrian Refugees-

VA Funds and Syrian Refugees–50jh.,b60

The Gap in VA Funds

In June 2015, Sloan Gibson, deputy secretary of veterans affairs, testified before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on a funding gap for the Veterans Health Administration’s Care in the Community Program, which provides health care for veterans from non-VA medical professionals when a VA facility isn’t able to provide certain specialty care. Gibson explained that there had been more use of the Care in the Community program by veterans in fiscal year 2015, and the VHA expected increased usage to continue through Sept. 30, 2015, the end of that fiscal year.

Sloan Gibson, June 25, 2015: VHA now expects to spend $10.1 billion in FY 2015 for Care in the Community, an increase of $1.9 billion (24 percent) from the $8.2 billion in FY 2014. … We are making efforts to improve how we are managing our Care in the Community program while continuing to do the right thing for veterans and provide essential access to care. In order to continue these efforts, we have determined that, at the current rate, expected demand for Care in the Community in FY 2015 will cost approximately an additional $2.5 billion.

Part of the shortfall stemmed from the fact that the VA overestimated the extent to which veterans would use the Veterans Choice Program, which was implemented in fiscal 2015, to access services from non-VA providers rather than through the Care in the Community Program. While the Veterans Choice Program is similar to the Care in the Community Program in that both programs allow veterans to access care from non-VA providers, the Veterans Choice Program allows veterans to select a provider outside of the VA when they face long wait times or long travel distances, according to Health Net, the company that administers these programs for the VA.

In a February 2016 report on the VA’s health care budget, the Government Accountability Office explained how VA predictions were faulty on which programs veterans would use in 2015.

U.S. Government Accountability Office, Feb. 10, 2016: Veterans’ utilization of Veterans Choice Program services was much lower than expected in fiscal year 2015. VA had estimated that obligations for the Veterans Choice Program in fiscal year 2015 would be $3.2 billion, but actual obligations totaled only $413 million. Instead, VA provided a greater amount of services through the [Care in the Community] program, resulting in total obligations of $10.1 billion, which VA officials stated were much higher than expected for that program in fiscal year 2015.

To make up for the gap in funds, the VA requested that Congress authorize use of the Veterans Choice Fund, as reported by Stars and Stripes. And that’s exactly what Congress did, passing the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015. Obama signed the bill into law on July 31, 2015, authorizing a maximum of $3.3 billion to be transferred from the Veterans Choice Fund to Care in the Community, according to a Congressional Research Service summary of the legislation.

In sum, the VA’s $2.6 billion shortfall was covered, and the VA budget was not cut. This gap was triggered by an increased caseload for the VA and inaccurate predictions about which services veterans would utilize, rather than the direct actions of Obama. Moreover, this gap was unrelated to funds to help the Syrian refugees.

aid to refugees:

Josh Earnest, Sept. 21, 2015: The United States today is committing to provide nearly $419 million in additional humanitarian aid … to Syrians affected by the conflict. … And with this new announcement, the United States has now committed to provide more than $4.5 billion to help address the dire conditions inside Syria and for the more than 4 million Syrian refugees scattered across the region.

As Earnest said, the White House pledged an additional $419 million, which brought the spending total for fiscal year 2015 to more than $1.6 billion, according to a State Department fact sheet. This, in turn, brought the total amount of humanitarian spending since the start of the crisis in fiscal 2012 to more than $4.5 billion. The money went to the United Nations and other organizations assisting refugees in the region.

It is important to note that funds for refugees did not come out of any VA accounts. In fact, the declaration that the U.S. was increasing its contribution to Syrian refugees came nearly two months after Congress had corrected the VA shortfall by allowing the VA to shift funds from one VA account to another.

source-chloe nurik, fact, slaon gibson,



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