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Chairman Bost’s Remarks at Biden Administration’s FY 2025 VA Budget Request Hearing

WASHINGTON, DC – 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 Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) budget request for fiscal years 2025 and 2026:


Good morning.


The Committee will come to order.


I want to welcome Secretary McDonough to review the V.A. budget request for 2025 and 2026.


I want to let everyone know that we expect to recess about 10:30 for the Japanese prime minister to address the joint session.


We will resume the hearing after that.


I want to thank our witnesses for their patience.


I will get right to it.


The president has requested $369 billion for V.A. for fiscal year 2025.


That’s a nearly 10 percent increase from this year.


In March, Congress already appropriated the vast majority of the 2025 funding, or $295 billion.


In June of last year, Congress already appropriated $24.5 billion for the Toxic Exposure Fund for 2025.


So we are here today considering the remaining V.A. accounts for 2025 and the advance request for 2026.


Congress has always prioritized veterans and met V.A.’s needs.


In fact, for the most part, the Department already has received their funding for FY 2025.


I don’t want to hear any more baseless rumors and scare tactics about Congress cutting off support for veterans, like we heard last year.


It’s disrespectful to the men and women who have served our great nation to spread lies in an attempt to score political points.


And I won’t allow it.


I want to have a serious conversation about how V.A. is managing the taxpayer dollars that Congress provides.


There is a real problem here.


Somehow, despite the nearly $17 billion increase this year and the $33 billion request for next year, the second largest federal agency can barely keep the lights on.


Hiring has been cut back or frozen.


The health care workforce is shrinking by 10,000 positions.


Construction to modernize V.A.’s facilities has flatlined to only two major projects.


IT investment has been cut by 99 percent.


Some existing projects barely have enough funding to continue, and new projects are off the table.


The White House seems to be shortchanging many of the priorities that President Biden presents in his own budget, and many of our priorities as well.


The overall requested increase is large, but a lot of the money seems to be in the wrong places.


The simple explanation is that V.A. used the enhanced pay authorities that Congress provided in the PACT Act and elsewhere to spend themselves into a deficit.


In many V.A. offices, they can no longer afford the employees they have now, much less recruit talented new ones.


It is the opposite of what Congress intended when we provided those authorities.


I absolutely support the PACT Act, but V.A.’s implementation of parts of the law is getting very confusing.


We are hearing from some members’ offices that V.A. medical centers don’t even understand the new eligibility criteria for veterans.


And the whole V.A. budget is reliant on gimmicks that get more and more complicated every year.


I’m talking about transfers, carryover, the transformation fund, unfunded requirements, doing away with the second bite for health care, and a mandatory construction account that doesn’t exist.


And yes, despite Congress’s intent, V.A. is using the Toxic Exposure Fund as another budget gimmick.


They are shifting regular expenses out of the base budget and dumping them in the Toxic Exposure Fund.


Like it or not, 40 percent of the Toxic Exposure Fund is community care.


The V.A. budget simply does not have to be this complicated.


Especially because, unlike other federal agencies, Congress has always found ways to prioritize V.A.


We always have, and I’m confident we always will.


I have faith in the Appropriations Committee to sort out the V.A. accounts.


We have to do our part too, as the authorizing committee.


I want effective programs and realistic estimates.


I want the dollars to actually benefit the veterans, family members, and survivors.


And we always have to stand guard against growth in the bureaucracy.


We have in front of us the most confusing V.A. budget I have ever seen.


Somehow, a 10% overall increase contains a lot of cuts in a lot of different areas that frankly don’t make sense.


But I am committed to protecting health care and benefits, and I hope we will work together to do that.


With that, I want to thank Secretary McDonough and the representatives of D.A.V., P.V.A., and V.F.W. who will be on our second panel.


Ranking Member Takano, I now recognize you for your opening statement.

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