Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
April 1, 2015

VA Health Bill Deadlock Continues Despite a Reduced Cost Estimate

A House-Senate conference committee tasked with writing a compromise veterans’ health bill continues to struggle with a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate for what it will take to allow veterans to seek care from private health care providers and avoid notorious treatment delays at veterans’ medical centers.

CQ Roll Call’ s Ellyn Ferguson reports that CBO has reduced its estimate by 15 percent to $38 billion per year, down from $50 billion, but Republicans are still keen on spending offsets while Democrats are urging a non-offset emergency designation for the bill.

Offsetting new spending with cuts in other programs is a continuous congressional battle on all major health care legislation.

Meanwhile, CQ HealthBeat reports that health care provider groups are more interested making sure of prompt payments and reduced VA bureaucratic processing obstacles for veterans’ treatment delivered outside of the VA system.

  • pitch1934

    Here’s a simple solution. Don’t extend the tax breaks that are on the table. Sheesh!

  • Jim S.

    And Who Says Politics Doesn’t Play From Within the Agencies to the Branches
    Especially to the Legislative to keep the costs, or create costly ‘scandals’, way down in the VA.

    Oh and they got Bonuses too!!

    Prior too this present Executive and Veterans administrations:

    October 23, 2008 – And now VA investigators are trying to figure out if this one-time survey points to the likelihood that documents have been improperly destroyed for months or even years.

    “Whatever this problem is, it didn’t just start in the last two weeks,” said Dave Autry, a spokesman for Disabled American Veterans. “It’d be unreasonable to assume that. Who knows what’s been destroyed.”

    The documents, which didn’t have duplicates at the VA, would have been critical in deciding veteran pension and disability claims. As a result, many veterans are asking whether their delayed or denied claims were affected by lost paperwork. read more>>>

    Oct 16, 2008 – VA claims found in piles to be shredded

    October 24, 2008 – House panel will target VA shredding

    February 11, 2009 – Veterans’ Claims Found in Shredder Bins

    ProPublica and The Seattle Times Nov. 9, 2012 – Lost to History: Missing War Records Complicate Benefit Claims by Iraq, Afghanistan Veterans
    “DeLara’s case is part of a much larger problem that has plagued the U.S. military since the 1990 Gulf War: a failure to create and maintain the types of field records that have documented American conflicts since the Revolutionary War.”

    Army Says War Records Gap Is Real, Launches Recovery Effort

    The War On Military Records

    12/10/2013 – The era of big data has arrived on the battlefield and we need to find new ways to deal with it.
    USN All Shore ’67-’71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country ’70-’71 – Independent**

    • Jim S.

      There is only one branch of the government that’s been consistent, now for over five yrs., in helping us Veterans, long ignored or denied issues by those served, as well as Military personal and their Families, the Executive Branch and it’s Cabinet!! Trying finally to build what the Country promised, decades and wars from ignored their responsibility, and the conservative ideology is to privatize, bringing in all the problems and bottom line corporate executive mentality, for corporate profit off the peoples treasury. They don’t control the Countries purse strings and the VA is the Responsibility of the Country Served, the Poser Patriots who use Veterans as political pawns!!

      “We are dealing with veterans, not procedures—with their problems, not ours.” —General Omar Bradley, First Administrator of the Veterans Administration

      Ahhh yes, it’s just so easy to, Peoples Representatives, Rubber Stamp, wealth enhancing through investments, War Costs that are all borrowed, no offsets mentioned, on our credit with interest payments and in these recent two kept off the Countries books till Executive Administrations changed!! Then use same, Political Poser Patriotic Theater, for the decades of ‘scandals’ created by ignoring the Veterans of who served in and the issues from and doing patch work on which create more ‘scandals’ to use, including making sure the agency stays years behind the technology advances causing extremely costly problems that are then obstructed in fixing!

      Meanwhile, DeJa- Vu all over again, the Veterans Bill sits in the House going no where!! They got the Gen. “Mission Accomplished” , their, problem solved!!!

      ‘Congress Scrambling to Lower Cost of Bill to Fix Veterans’ Health Care’

      “Why in 2009 were we still using paper?” VA Assistant Secretary Tommy Sowers “When we came in, there was no plan to change that; we’ve been operating on a six month wait for over a decade.” 27 March 2013

      Poser Patriots, the 99% Served, especially conservative ideology, like it that way, been so for decades and wars from continuing the stand for them flag waving patriotic free wars, Afghanistan and Iraq still not paid for, and ignoring the results from. Decades of under funding, while ignoring many issues, the peoples responsibility the VA. Still grossly under funded, two tax cuts with these wars, in just recent history as Shinseki, with help from the entire Executive Branch, sought to bring it into the 21st century and as the people served promised from beginning, budget still mostly borrowed!!

      Sen. Bernie Sanders told Conservatives: “If you can’t afford to take care of your veterans, than don’t go war. These people are bearing the brunt of what war is about, We have a moral obligation to support them.” February, 26th, 2014

      USN All Shore ’67-’71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country ’70-’71 – Independent**

  • rvauthor

    From early May into late June, the country was inundated with press releases, news conferences, and media reports about the problems the Department of Veterans Affairs was having delivering healthcare services to veterans. All of Congress, along with the media, pundits, talk show hosts, and numerous state Governors, was up in arms about the need to take action to address the problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    The Senate passed VA reform legislation with a cost of 150 Billion Dollars over three years in February and the Republican senators held up any action. In June, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the House passed VA reform legislation with a cost of approximately 1.7 percent of the Senate bill funding requirements, and announced it was time for the July recess. This website has the bill after reconciliation is down to $38 billion dollars a year over three years and another website reported three days that it was down to a total of 30 Billion Dollars over three years. Not withstanding that small discrepancy, the Republicans are insisting they are not willing to increase taxes to pay for it; they want the cost to come out of other federal budget accounts. The article gives no information as to what was cut from the original Senate bill and what remains in the reconciliation.

    In closing, we have no information as to what is actually being proposed to resolve the problems providing healthcare benefits the approximately eight million veterans eligible for VA healthcare services has evolved with eleven days left in the legislative calendar. We also appear to have aggressive back-pedaling by Republican members of the House and the Senate about really taking meaningful action or providing any funding source. They will now simply announce that they have fixed everything and begin their series of long recesses between now and year end.

    • John OMalia

      The Republicans have not back peddled on having meaningful reform for health care of our veterans. They don’t want to further bust the budget to do it. The Democrats answer to everything is to spend more money that we don’t have. They don’t want to prioritize spending. They are always willing to throw money at a problem when money is not the answer. The problems are systemic and will not change VA employees attitudes about caring for veterans. They will continue to lie and file false reports to get undeserved bonuses. And the elephant in the room? Uncontrolled costs for Obamacare which of course can not be either cut or at this point the amount can’t even be calculated by the General Accounting Office, they’ve given up.

      • rvauthor

        To date, I have not seen any information any findings from the VA reform reconciliation committee as to what the Republicans propose. What I have seen is the Republican Senator from NC advise veterans use private or job-related health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, or Tricare (military retiree) health insurance. Of course, these all have deductibles and co-pays. Imagine, replacing the prosthesis for a missing limb for a combat-wounded veteran or surgery and then telling them they had to make a co-pay.
        The Republicans did propose allowing veterans eligible for healthcare services to use private practitioners, but is was a 3-year trial (for a small number of veterans) and would end after three years.
        It is completely unfair, unethical, and inappropriate for politicians to conflate providing healthcare for injuries and illnesses due to military service and budget constraints. The country asked men and women to volunteer to serve in the Armed Forces (many of them to be in harm’s way), they didn’t say and we will provide any follow-on medical and disability assistance subject to budget constraints.
        In addition, many Members of Congress stated that the needs of veterans must be addressed and the problems of provided healthcare services must be fixed. Now that the time has come to act on the findings and recommendations of numerous congressional hearings, we are being told that they have no plans for any additional monies to implement any VA-related services for eligible veterans. It is time for the 99% who stayed home and went shopping to be prepared to pay for the consequences of sending the 1% into wars in various hell-holes around the world.

        • John OMalia

          From the information I have both the House and Senate versions of allowing for the veteran to use civilian care if the delay would take longer than 30 days to schedule is essentially the same. The Democrats want to throw money at it we don’t have and the Republicans want to use money from another part of the budget. The Senator from NC has a good point. Those covered by Medicare and TRICARE pay nothing, there is no co pay or deductible the TRICARE would not cover. I do this.

          About myself, I’m a combat veteran with a 100% service connected disability. I use the VA and civilian health care facilities. The VA has plenty of funds available to initiate reform. The current administration dislikes the military. Everything done so far destroys morale and readiness. This attitude pervades the government and that is why the veterans are getting such a poor response to their attempts to get care through the VA. The heads of the agencies follow the poor example set by the President because they feel they can get away with it. (In every agency)

  • krazzicraig

    The goverment and the VA are not capable of thinking outside the box . The cost for one PCP and their staff is over $400,000.00 per year . PCP is nothing more then a family doctor .A PCP is not trained to deal with many of the injuries vets come home . They refer the vet to a specialist .The senate bill calls for adding more clinics and PCPs . It will not fix a thing .

  • mandinka

    Eliminating tax credits for illegals would pay for this is full

  • Dix Lee

    So the Congress just voted to extend a variety of tax breaks for businesses, of which We the People will have to make up, without asking for or demanding cost offsets. As with all other handouts to corporate America, Republicans always conjure up the “job creator” myth claiming the tax breaks will stimulate the economy and create jobs. I call BS on that!! As a disabled veteran of the Vietnam War ( In Country 68-70), I find it deplorable that Republicans are now calling for offsets to get the VA property funded and staffed and to get us the help we need. In recent weeks I have had to resort to Medicare to get the medical help I need. It’s a national shame to hang us out to dry.

  • ci_tech

    krazzicraig, you are exactly spot on!!! PCP’s are unable to do anything more than prescribe med’s and (sometimes) takes notes from the vets. I went in needing a steriod injection and I had to INSIST that the doctor do it. Made him a little mad, but I got the injection and avoided the ER!! Now, if they want to put doctors and specialists in these clinics with lets say, a X-ray machine, and the ability to do more than take your blood pressure and draw blood, then I say go for it. Otherwise, this is pouring good money after bad.

  • lissmth

    Give them all a high-deductible insurance plan and enough cash to fund an HSA for out-of-pocket. Then let VA compete. You’ll see a rapid transformation.

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