House passes H.R. 1016 by a vote of 419-1
WASHINGTON (Oct. 8, 2009) - The American Legion's National Commander, Clarence Hill, has praised the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 1016, the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009. This measure would provide the Department of Veterans Affairs with advance appropriations each fiscal year to begin on October 1, whether the rest of the annual Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations have been signed into law or not. "This action is unprecedented at this funding level," said Hill. "Although The American Legion deeply appreciated the significant increases in VA's overall appropriations in recent years, not knowing when the funds would arrive made managing the VA health care system a major challenge." The goal of advance appropriations is to make sure VA medical care funding is timely, predictable, and sufficient. "It will still require a great deal of work on our part to make sure the annual appropriations will be sufficient," Hill said. "As Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom continue, this nation has a moral, ethical and legal obligation to care for the men and women placed in harm's way, but we cannot meet these new health care challenges by asking veterans of previous conflicts to move aside in order to provide timely healthcare access to the newest generation of wartime veterans."
In 1996, the VA health care system made a significant transition into the "best care anywhere" as cited by Phillip Longman in his book Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care is Better Than Yours . "Clearly, every federal dollar invested in VA health care is providing the most cost-effective, quality health care in the nation," Hill said. "Many health care experts agree, the VA health care system is the role model for the rest of the health care industry." Advance appropriations will help allow VA health care professionals to achieve both short and long-range management decisions without wondering if "the check is in the mail."
Representative Bob Filner, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, offered the following statement on the occasion of the bill's passage: "Today, the House of Representatives took action to respond to years of chronic underfunding of VA medical care. Over the last 23 years, 20 VA budgets have been passed late - and our veterans pay the price with fewer doctors, longer waiting times, and more restricted access for the 6 million veterans using VA health care. Again this year, the VA is forced to rely on funding from a continuing resolution, even though the House acted in a timely fashion and passed the FY 2010 VA spending bill in July. Members of the Committee have worked closely with veteran service organizations to pass this landmark bill and guarantee that our veterans have access to comprehensive, quality health care."
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