The 115th Congress began on January 3, 2017, and some in the House leadership are questioning the wisdom of a VA budget increase. Representative Phil Roe, R-Tenn, the new chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, thinks that “we have enough money in the VA system now to do our mission,” but “we’re just not spending it wisely.”
So, a worthwhile exercise is to look at how much money the VA has and how the VA is spending it.
The VA’s fiscal 2017 budget is $176.9 billion including both mandatory benefit spending (like disability compensation) and discretionary spending. During the Obama administration, the VA’s budget grew 4% per year at a minimum. The rise in VA spending, since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, is impressive. In 2001 the VA’s budget was $45 billion, meaning that the VA’s budget has grown nearly 350% in the past fifteen years.
In addition to this growth, stories of fraud, waste, and mismanagement continue to dog the VA. For example, the 2014 Veterans Choice and Accountability Act appropriated $2.5 billion to hire more VA health care providers. A surge in staff was supposed to alleviate delays veterans had experienced in receiving medical care. The net gain in staff was a few thousand doctors and nurses for a system serving approximately 9 million patients. This story is available on NPR’s. In short, veterans did not get much for $2.5billion. One can find dozens of examples of fraud and abuse at the VA investigator general’s website.
The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee recognizes that the VA budget has grown steadily to address latent diseases from exposure to Agent Orange, traumatic brain injury, and PTSD. A larger budget has been needed to serve the service members coming home from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring freedom. Accompanying this is the Committee’s recognition of the VA’s chronically poor reputation as a result of mismanagement and no accountability. These competing stories will shape the VA’s fiscal 2018 budget. The increased budget and VA mismanagement will also influence reform legislation that will directly impact veterans. If the budget shrinks, this may also impact the amount of compensation awarded to veterans in the future.
At Bosley & Bratch, our job is to maximize the VA disability benefits of our clients even in a very dynamic and uncertain political and legal climate. We have succeed at this for years by learning from the past and looking into the future. We will continue to do so. If you have any questions about VA compensation benefits, please feel free to call us at (800) 953-6224 or complete our free veterans benefits case evaluation form.