ShareThis Page
Editorials

Veterans Affairs bill should be backed up by funding

| Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 8:53 p.m.
President Trump, flanked by members of Congress and veterans, holds up the Veterans Affairs Mission Act he signed during a June 6 ceremony at the White House.
Getty Images
President Trump, flanked by members of Congress and veterans, holds up the Veterans Affairs Mission Act he signed during a June 6 ceremony at the White House.

Updated 11 hours ago

We support the bill President Trump signed into law June 6 that allows veterans to more easily seek medical care from outside the Veterans Affairs system.

But the devil is in the details, and there are a few that stand out as potentially troubling. (Spoiler alert: It involves money.)

The measure builds on legislation passed in 2014 in response to a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments.

The law loosens Choice's restrictions that limit outside care to only when a veteran must wait 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. Veterans also can seek private care when the treatment was not what they had expected.

Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector.

The law also expands a VA caregivers program to cover families of veterans of all eras.

The changes are projected to cost $51 billion.

Now comes the rub.

According to The Associated Press, some lawmakers warn this could put the VA at risk of budget shortfalls next year.

A bipartisan group of senators wants to add money to cover the VA private care program.

But the AP says the White House has been quietly working to block that plan, calling it an “anathema to responsible spending.” Warning of “virtually unlimited increases” in veterans care spending, the Trump administration argues that the private care program's added costs should be paid for by cutting other VA spending.

The VA secretary will have wide leeway in implementing the legislation based in part on available money.

While veterans groups cheered the legislation as a major step toward improving veterans care, some have cautioned against “cannibalizing” VA programs to pay for Choice, saying more funding is needed.

That's our fear, too. What good is it to offer a better situation in this instance but then take away some other, yet to be determined, program or benefit?

Congress showed no such restraint when passing its most recent budget in the spring. Military spending is the highest ever.

There were no concerns regarding fiscal restraint then, when budgeting to send soldiers to defend their country; now, all of a sudden, the budget for treating for their care afterward is an issue?

Doesn't that merely seem like an extension of the problem for caring for America's 9 million veterans that the new law is intended to address?

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me