The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009

Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been late in getting approved by Congress in 20 of the last 23 years, which has affected the planning of veterans’ health care programs. This month, the President signed into law H.R. 1016, an act entitled The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009. H.R. 1016 amends Title 38 of the United States Code.

Under current law, appropriations for veterans medical care are provided each year. The new law authorizes Congress to approve veterans medical care funding one year in advance to better meet the anticipated demand for veterans health care services. The advanced funding will give the VA up to a full year to plan for the most effective and efficient way of delivering medical care. Additionally, the new law requires the Government Accountability Office to audit the budget development process to ensure that sufficient funds are included.

Specifically, H.R. 1016 authorizes appropriations for five budget accounts:

  • Medical Services,
  • Medical Facilities,
  • Medical Support and Compliance,
  • Information technology Systems, and
  • Medical and Prosthetic Research.

According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), a veterans service and advocacy organization, the passage of the new law matters because: (1) The legislation provides timely, predictable funding for veterans’ health care by requiring Congress to approve a health care budget for the VA at least one year in advance. (2) It removes partisanship and politics from the veterans funding process forever. (3) It has been a top priority for leading veterans groups for decades. (4) The new law will help to end inadequate planning and rationed care in the VA health care system.

Commenting on the passage of H.R. 1016, Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and Executive Director of the IAVA said: “Today, the President’s signature transformed VA care for America’s veterans forever. At the signing, I witnessed the President put an end to the rationing of care for our country’s veterans, even when Congress fails to deliver the VA budget on time. This is a historic investment in the future of veterans’ health care that will benefit millions of American heroes. With this legislation, politics can no longer stand in the way of VA funding. … Advance funding has been the goal of veteran service organizations for over two decades.”

Sources: Reuters and The Library of Congress