Advocacy Issue Brief: Strengthening VA’s Advance Appropriations

The Situation

  • For the past three decades, VA’s health care system has struggled to receive sufficient, timely and predictable funding, often resulting in fewer medical services available to veterans, longer waiting lines, and an overall decline in the quality of VA care.
  • To remedy these problems, Public Law 111-81, the “Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act” was developed and enacted into law in 2009 with the support of DAV and other veterans service organizations. The law authorized advance appropriations for veterans medical care and required the General Accountability Office (GAO) to monitor and report on VA’s budget submissions in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
  • For the past three years, the President has proposed, and Congress has approved, advance appropriations for veterans medical care programs, which has allowed VA to plan, allocate and spend its health care funding in a more efficient, effective and predictable manner.

The Challenge

  • With the federal budget and appropriations process continuing to break down, as evidenced by stalemates over debt ceilings, sequestration and government shutdowns, VA’s health care system has been partially shielded as a result of the advance appropriations process, although other interrelated VA programs, such as research, IT and construction, have not.
  • However, Congress and the Administration failed to approve the FY 2013 budget and appropriations laws last year, instead passing a six-month continuing resolution to fund the government, which did not include the FY 2014 advance appropriations for VA health care.

The Solution

  • DAV urges Congress to amend the “Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974″ to permanently authorize advance appropriations for VA health care in order to eliminate the need for an annual budget waiver against points of order.
  • DAV urges Congress to permanently authorize GAO to monitor and report on the formulation of VA’s budget estimates in the advance appropriations process, specifically comparing VA’s budget request with its internal actuarial model projections.
  • DAV urges Congress to debate and consider authorizing advance appropriations for other VA appropriations accounts, particularly for research, IT, construction and VBA operations.