Chairman Bost Sets the Record Straight at FY 2024 VA Budget Request Hearing
Today, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, at the start of the Committee’s oversight hearing to assess the Biden administration’s FY 2024 Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Budget and FY 2025 Advance Appropriations Request:
The Committee will come to order.
I want to welcome Secretary McDonough.
We received V.A.’s budget request two weeks ago.
The request will again look to increase the Department’s budget.
The request attempts to tackle the hospital maintenance backlog, invests in mental health and Community Care, and works to end veteran homelessness.
Congress has always prioritized the V.A. budget.
Despite all the accusations about cutting care and benefits for veterans, that is not in doubt.
My friend from Texas, Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, has made it clear that veterans’ care continues to be a priority.
Mr. Secretary, I will always support giving you the resources you need to carry out your mission.
As a veteran and the Chairman of this Committee, that is my number one priority.
I also expect, and demand, that you be a good steward of the taxpayers’ investment.
When a budget grows as fast as V.A.’s has, there is always waste.
The Committee has already started highlighting it.
V.A. is spending billions of dollars on management consulting contracts.
The Department also owns or leases a huge number of empty or nearly empty buildings all over the country.
And V.A. is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year on failing I.T. projects.
I hope you will work with me to eliminate the waste and find better uses for that money.
That said, I have some concerns about how this budget request is structured.
It has far too many gimmicks.
And today’s gimmicks are tomorrow’s headaches.
The Toxic Exposure Fund is just the beginning.
Let’s not overcomplicate this.
We have been building hospitals with discretionary money for 30 years.
Why do we need one construction fund that uses discretionary and another fund that uses mandatory money now?
We have always paid the claims processors’ salaries out of the same account.
Why do we need to pay them from different accounts now, depending on what type of claim they work on?
There has been a process for a long time, called the Second Bite, where V.A. revises its medical care request during the year.
It exists for a reason, and it works.
Why should we get rid of it?
I don’t believe anyone intended the Toxic Exposure Fund to replace it.
The more complex a budget is, the harder it is to manage and have transparency.
And these complexities make V.A. less accountable to the veterans they serve.
We are already dealing with some unintended consequences from changes in the budget.
The last thing we need to do is create more.
I look forward to digging into these issues today.
Ranking Member Takano, I now recognize you for your opening statement.