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Saying 'We Can't Trust VA's Numbers' Jeff Miller Wary of Increased VA Funding

July 16, 2014 - 6:00pm
The Florida congressman who chairs up the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee said we cant trust the VAs numbers as the U.S. Veterans Affairs department asks for $17.6 billion over the next three years.

U.S. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson testified before the U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday, asking for the additional funds. With the VA rocked by reports about altered waiting lists at medical facilities across the nation, Gibson noted the department had problems and asked for the additional funds to turn things around.

We understand the problems we face, Gibson insisted. We own them. We are taking decisive action to begin to resolve them."

Noting more than 636,000 veterans continue to wait for a month or more for appointments at VA medical centers, Gibson called for hiring 10,000 additional medical staffers and additional space, from creating new centers to leasing space. Gibson said wait lines will increase if additional funds are not provided to the VA.

I know it sounds like huge numbers, Gibson said. But VA historically has not managed to (meet) veterans requirements, weve managed to budget numbers.

Across Capitol Hill, Miller expressed doubt about Gibsons request.

I am committed to giving VA the resources it needs to provide our veterans with the care and benefits they have earned, Miller said. But if theres one thing weve learned over the last few months, its that we cant trust VAs numbers. That includes the $17.6 billion in additional funding Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson asked for today.

Miller said Congress needs to examine and study the request before considering signing on with it.

Given that this figure seems to have magically fallen out of the sky today after years of assertions from VA leaders at all levels that they had nearly every dollar and every person necessary to accomplish VAs mission it would be an act of budgetary malpractice to blindly sign off on this request," Miller said. VA has had hundreds of millions more in medical care funding than it could spend every fiscal year since 2010. So if VA truly needs this additional $17.6 billion, that would mean the VA administrators involved in past department resource allocation decisions are either incompetent, disingenuous or both.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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