Congress should be fiscally prudent with VA funding
In The Hill, Heritage’s Romina Boccia warns Congress not to make things worse at the Department of Veterans Affairs:
Part of the increase in cost would stem from more veterans enrolling in the VA system over time. The CBO estimates that there are about 8 million additional veterans who would qualify for veterans’ healthcare, but that are not participating in the current system. They are relying on Medicare, Medicaid, the military healthcare system, and private healthcare instead. The CBO estimates that at least one quarter of these veterans could be induced to enroll in the proposed system.
Moreover, the CBO assumes that today’s VA costs only cover about 30 percent of the healthcare received by the 8.4 million enrolled veterans. Those veterans are also expected to increase their use of VA healthcare by about 75 percent.
Although Congress’s current approach would only expand veterans’ access to private-sector care for two years, Congress may face pressure to extend the law’s provisions beyond that time horizon. The CBO also stresses that its estimates are preliminary. Much uncertainty remains over the effects Congress’s provisions would have.
The Heritage Foundation previously recommended that the VA should focus on the unique needs of military medicine. A recent Congressional Research Service fact sheet revealed that more than one out of every 10 VA patients is not a veteran, and the number of non-veterans using the VA’s healthcare services has increased faster in recent years than has the number of veteran patients. Scarce VA healthcare should first and foremost focus on deserving veterans.