October 01, 2015

Manchin Votes Against Bill That Shorts Funding for Veterans

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) today voted against the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations bill that underfunds veterans’ benefits and programs. The bill is $1.2 billion below the President’s request and shortchanges veterans programs by $857 million.  

“We made a sacred commitment to our veterans when we sent them to war that we would do whatever it takes it take care of them when they returned,” Senator Manchin said. “This bill does nothing to address that promise.  Just last week, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary McDonald made a special trip to West Virginia to visit our VA facilities and meet with our veterans. It was clear to everyone that there is major work to be done to address the shortages at our VA facilities and improve and expand the VA services so that all veterans have access to the treatment and care they earned and deserve. This bill will essentially do the opposite of what we have been working so hard to do in our state and across the country: improve the VA system and provide the best care available to our veterans. Disappointingly, this bill takes an ax to needed funding for the VA, underfunding medical care by over $500 million dollars, which is equal to the cost of providing care for more than 60,000 veterans.

“After speaking with Secretary McDonald today, I understand that the VA cannot provide the proper care to our nation’s veterans under this bill.  I have always said that we must set our priorities based on our values, and there is nothing our nation values more than our veterans, who have risked it all in defense of our country. This bill very sadly cuts spending on the backs of our veterans, and I cannot in any way, shape or form vote to support it.”

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) Appropriations bill will harm veterans in many ways, including:

  • Understaff the nation’s VA hospitals with over $500 million in health care cuts. The Senate MilCon-VA appropriations bill reduces funding for the VA by $857 million below the President’s budget. This would lead to underfunding of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care by over $500 billion dollars, equivalent to the cost of providing care for more than 60,000 veterans.
  • Cut funding for maintenance at VA hospitals. Roughly 60 percent of VA’s medical facilities are more than 50 years old. The VA estimates that this bill cuts approximately $105 million for non-recurring maintenance to address deficiencies at hospitals and clinics.
  • Pit funding for traditional medical services against funding for new, lifesaving prescription drugs that treat diseases like Hepatitis-C or the VA’s Caregivers program for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. Veterans are disproportionately affected by the deadly disease known as Hepatitis-C. The VA is facing significant unanticipated costs due primarily to increased demand for new Hepatitis-C treatment drugs that have up to a 96 percent cure rate; a nearly 50 percent increase in the utilization of fee-based medical care provided outside of the VA health care system; and a spike in the usage of the VA’s Caregivers Program for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The VA allocation in this bill does not provide sufficient funding to address requested medical service requirements and all of these emerging medical care priorities

Veterans groups, such as American Legion and Veterans Association of America, have announced their opposition to this bill.