By Erik Wasson - 04/29/14 03:24 PM EDT
White House: Veterans health funding too low in House bill
The Veterans Affairs spending bill on the House floor this week does not provide enough money for medical care, the White House said in a statement Tuesday.
“The Administration is disappointed with the funding level for VA Medical Care, which is $368 million below the President’s request. This funding level could delay the timely delivery of healthcare services to veterans and impede the Administration’s efforts to end veterans’ homelessness in 2015,” the White House said.
It also said the bill should provide $50 million more for information technology.
The statement of administration policy also critiques the fiscal 2015 spending bill — the first of 12 that need to be enacted by Oct. 1 — for restrictions it places on funding for upgrades to health records. The bill conditions funding on the Veterans Affairs Department demonstrating progress on the system’s functionality and interoperability with the Department of Defense.
Congress is trying to use the bill to speed up a backlog of claims due to an inability of Pentagon and Veterans Affairs computer systems to communicate. The administration says the restrictions are counterproductive.
“Uncertainty in funding availability will delay needed enhancements for improved clinical decision support and better care for veterans,” the White House said.
The spending bill also provides funding for military construction activities and the administration has no qualms with the funding in that section. It does object to a restriction that prevents the construction of any facilities for detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay Cuba, however.
In all, the committee’s legislation provides $71.5 billion in discretionary spending for military construction and Veterans Affairs — $1.8 billion less than what was enacted last year.
The bill provides $6.6 billion for military construction, a cut of $3.3 billion compared to 2014 appropriations levels.