By: Kellie Lunney
The Veterans Affairs Department will not be forced to furlough employees or shut down hospitals because of a lack of funds, two House Republicans said on Tuesday, July 21, 2015.
“Congress will not allow the VA’s failures to close care facilities or furlough the personnel our veterans rely on every day,” said House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., in a joint statement Tuesday afternoon. Dent is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the VA.
The VA has asked Congress for permission to shift about $2.5 billion in existing funds – in part away from the Choice program — to cover shortfalls elsewhere in the budget. Without a fix, officials have said the department might have to close facilities, furlough workers, and freeze hiring starting in August.
“We are diligently working to ensure this does not occur, and that no veterans will be denied the care they need and deserve,” Miller and Dent said, of possible closures or furloughs. The lawmakers blasted VA for what they called its “continuing mismanagement” and “lack of transparency” with Congress and the public. “Two months ago, the VA couldn’t tell Congress it was over budget,” the chairmen said. “Two weeks ago, it couldn’t tell Congress it would be shutting down hospitals next month. No viable organization can function this way.”
VA Secretary Bob McDonald will testify on Wednesday morning before Miller’s committee on the department’s fiscal emergency.