"The Choice Act is not a cookie jar for the VA to raid as it sees fit. I cannot sit by and watch emergency funds intended to make VA medical facilities nationwide more efficient and hire desperately-needed physicians and medical staff be used to clean up this mess."
Apr 16 2015
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Committee on Appropriations, today blasted a proposal sent to Congress Tuesday night by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requesting that funds from the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 (Choice Act) be used to pay for the ballooning price tag to complete a new VA medical center being built in Aurora, Colo. Just this week, the Washington Post reported that the construction of the VA hospital east of Denver is “riddled with mistakes and cost overruns.”
“The Choice Act is not a cookie jar for the VA to raid as it sees fit,” Sen. Moran said. “If the President is truly focused on fixing the VA, why is his administration proposing to raid emergency funds provided by Congress to support greater access to health care for veterans? The over-budget and behind-schedule Denver project is a catastrophic failure of VA’s own making. While we cannot allow the millions of taxpayer dollars already spent on the facility to go to waste, I cannot sit by and watch emergency funds intended to make VA medical facilities nationwide more efficient and hire desperately-needed physicians and medical staff be used to clean up this mess. Thousands of rural veterans in states like Kansas still can’t get the timely VA care the Choice Act promised and are being forced to travel long distances to VA hospitals.”
“This request is just one more piece of evidence of the VA’s unwillingness and lack of interest in implementing the Choice Act,” Sen. Moran concluded.
The VA request came in a legislative proposal from VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson to the Senate on Tuesday afternoon regarding VA construction initiatives. Section 8 of the proposal would amend the Choice Act authorization to add the Denver construction project so that nearly $1 billion in Choice Act funds could be used for the completion of the Aurora medical facility. The Denver project is more than five times over budget and expected to cost a staggering $1.73 billion once complete. Its original cost estimate was $328 million.
Thousands of veterans continue to struggle to access care through the Choice Act primarily because of VA’s flawed implementation and interpretation of the law. These errors include delays in mailing out Choice Cards, disqualifying veterans who should be eligible without explanation, and dramatically narrowing the scope of veterans who can use the Choice Act by not taking into account whether a VA facility within 40 miles of a veteran’s home can actually provide the medical services a veteran needs.
Sen. Moran introduced legislation, the Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2015 (S. 207), in January requiring the VA to utilize its authorities, including the Choice Act, to offer community care to veterans who are currently unable to receive the healthcare services they need from a VA medical facility within 40 miles of where they live. In March, the U.S. Senate voted 100-0 to pass an amendment (#356) to the Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 11) authored by Sen. Moran that mirrors S. 207. Unfortunately, the VA continues to force thousands of veterans to choose between traveling hours to a VA medical facility, paying out of pocket, or going without care altogether.
# # #
- VA Requests Choice Act Funds for Denver VA Hospital - (1.1 MBs)
- Section 8 - Denver VA Choice Act Funding - (29.5 KBs)