Congress Wants to Shield Veterans From Another Government Shutdown

Lawmakers push for advance funding for VA.

National Journal
Jordain Carney
March 13, 2014, 3:08 p.m.

Dur­ing the last gov­ern­ment shut­down, law­makers feared vet­er­ans were days away from not re­ceiv­ing their dis­ab­il­ity checks.

Hop­ing to pre­vent a sim­il­ar pre­dic­a­ment, mem­bers of a House com­mit­tee pressed Thursday for full fund­ing for the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part­ment’s dis­cre­tion­ary budget a year ahead of sched­ule.

Cur­rently, only the de­part­ment’s health care ser­vices are fun­ded a year in ad­vance.

“This com­mit­tee is again try­ing to look down the road and provide ad­vanced ap­pro­pri­ations au­thor­ity for the re­main­ing 14 per­cent of the De­part­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs’ dis­cre­tion­ary budget,” said Rep. Mi­chael Michaud, the rank­ing mem­ber of the House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, at a hear­ing about the de­part­ment’s budget re­quest.

The Vet­er­ans Af­fairs De­part­ment is ask­ing for $164 bil­lion for its total 2015 fisc­al year budget, a 6.5 per­cent in­crease over the cur­rent fisc­al year.

Mem­bers on both sides of the aisle and mul­tiple out­side groups back giv­ing ad­vanced ap­pro­pri­ations to the de­part­ment. Pro­ponents ar­gue that it would give the de­part­ment and vet­er­ans great­er cer­tainty, par­tic­u­larly in re­gard to mak­ing be­ne­fits pay­ments dur­ing a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

But ef­forts to get ad­vance fund­ing for the rest of VA’s budget have stalled. Michaud and com­mit­tee Chair­man Jeff Miller in­tro­duced the Put­ting Vet­er­ans Fund­ing First Act, which passed the House Vet­er­ans Com­mit­tee but has lan­guished be­fore the full body.

A sim­il­ar push was in­cluded in Sen. Bernie Sanders’s wide-ran­ging vet­er­ans le­gis­la­tion, but that bill failed to pass a pro­ced­ur­al vote, and the bill is es­sen­tially on hold as the Ver­mont in­de­pend­ent tries to garner more Re­pub­lic­an sup­port.

Dur­ing Thursday’s hear­ing, Flor­ida Demo­crat Rep. Cor­rine Brown backed giv­ing the de­part­ment full ad­vance fund­ing and asked Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Sec­ret­ary Eric Shin­seki to weigh in.

Al­though Shin­seki didn’t re­ject the idea, he stressed that ad­vance ap­pro­pri­ations wouldn’t let the de­part­ment avoid all of its prob­lems if the gov­ern­ment shuts down again.

“We still have to go to the So­cial Se­cur­ity agency to val­id­ate oth­er dis­ab­il­it­ies pay­ments. We have to go IRS to val­id­ate threshold in­come levels,” Shin­seki said. “…This is a big­ger dis­cus­sion in some as­pects than just the VA budget.”

In­stead, Shin­seki re­it­er­ated a fa­mil­i­ar Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion talk­ing point: “What would be most help­ful to VA, [is] for “¦ the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to get a budget every year.”

What We're Following See More »
WARRING FACTIONS?
Freedom Caucus Members May Bolt the RSC
23 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

The Republican Study Committee may lose several members of the House Freedom Caucus next year, "potentially creating a split between two influential groups of House conservatives." The Freedom Caucus was founded at the inception of the current Congress by members who felt that the conservative RSC had gotten too cozy with leadership, "and its roughly 40 members have long clashed with the RSC over what tactics to use when pushing for conservative legislation." As many as 20 members may not join the RSC for the new Congress next year.

Source:
SOME THERAPIES ALREADY IN TRIALS
FDA Approves Emergency Zika Test
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued emergency authorization for a Zika diagnostics test from Swiss drugmaker Roche, skirting normal approval channels as the regulator moves to fight the disease's spread." Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that a new study in Nature identifies "about a dozen substances" that could "suppress the pathogen's replication." Some of them are already in clinical trials.

Source:
MONEY HAS BEEN PAID BACK
Medicare Advantage Plans Overcharged Government
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

According to 37 newly released audits, "some private Medicare plans overcharged the government for the majority of elderly patients they treated." A number of Medicare Advantage plans overstated "the severity of medical conditions like diabetes and depression." The money has since been paid back, though some plans are appealing the federal audits.

Source:
DESPITE CONSERVATIVE OBJECTIONS
Omnibus Spending Bill Likely Getting a Lame-Duck Vote
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"GOP leaders and House Democrats are already laying the groundwork for a short-term continuing resolution" on the budget this fall "that will set up a vote on a catch-all spending bill right before the holidays." As usual, however, the House Freedom Caucus may throw a wrench in Speaker Paul Ryan's gears. The conservative bloc doesn't appear willing to accept any CR that doesn't fund the government into 2017.

Source:
FBI WARNS STATES
Foreign Agents Have Hacked State Voting Databases
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks, prompting the bureau to warn election officials across the country to take new steps to enhance the security of their computer systems." Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this month conferred with state election officials, offering his department's assistance in scanning for vulnerabilities."

Source:
×