VA Requests “Flexibility” from Congress to Overcome $2.5 Billion Budget Shortfall amid Reports of Delayed and Denied Services
June 30, 2015 07:40 AM
The U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee last week held a hearing on the state of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget, amid reports that veterans are facing delays and denied services. In recent days, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) has received reports that the VA has denied authorizations and renewal authorizations of home health and other services due to funding shortages.
During the hearing, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson said the agency has a $2.5 billion budget shortfall for the rest of the fiscal year. In explaining the shortfall, the agency cited increased demand for care and services as well as antiquated systems. In order to overcome the shortfall, the VA is asking Congress to provide flexibility to use funds from the Veterans Choice program to pay a network of non-VA providers.
Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) committed to working with the relevant Congressional committees in the coming weeks “to give VA the flexibility it is seeking to use a limited amount of Choice funds for non-VA care.” Miller further criticized the agency for its mismanagement and lack of transparency surrounding its cost overruns.
“VA’s continued lack of transparency and refusal to be forthright with Congress is unacceptable,” said Miller. “Talking around the facts and alluding to the need for budget flexibility without justification or supporting data has become an all too familiar practice at VA. I look forward to discussing with Deputy Secretary Gibson how such a massive shortfall could have come as a surprise to the department, and how to put an end to these frequent cost overruns while ensuring veterans receive the care they have earned.”
Gibson admitted the shortfall was unacceptable and said the agency had been caught off-guard by the sudden surge in demand. He said without the budget flexibility to fund services provided through non-VA providers, the VA might need to deny services to veterans.
Home health services are funded through the non-VA budget with a $2.5 billion shortfall. According to information received by NAHC, veterans’ requests for community care rose 44 percent in the last year. In 2015 there will be 21-23 million community appointments, compared to 16.5 million in 2014.
NAHC’s government affairs staff has contacted the VA for more information to determine how the agency plans to ensure home health services are provided to veterans. The VA has not yet responded to NAHC’s inquiries. There is no indication of any official VA directive to curtail home health services, and NAHC is working to confirm the needed resolution to the reported denials.
NAHC Report will continue to provide updates regarding this issue as more information becomes available.