The VA has a $2.5 billion shortfall in its budget for this year. The budget crisis puts at immediate risk the fund that pays for non-skilled home health services like adult day care for 1,900 veterans in Nebraska and western Iowa. VA officials say the fund will run out of money by the end of July and it won’t be replenished until October 1 when the new fiscal year begins. The VA has asked Congress to plug the funding gap or at least allow the agency to move money from one part of its budget to another.
In explaining the shortfall, the VA cites increased demands for its services and out-of-date systems. According to the National Association of Home Care and Hospice, “(nationally) requests for (VA) community care rose 44 percent in the last year. In 2015 there will be 21-23 million community appointments, compared to 16.5 million in 2014.”
Without an infusion of money, the Deputy VA Secretary, Sloan Gibson, says that employees may be furloughed and some hospitals may have to shut down. Jeff Miller (R-FL), Chairman of the Congressional VA Committee, says he will work with Congress in the coming weeks “to give VA the flexibility it is seeking to use a limited amount of Choice funds for non-VA care.” Miller blasted the agency for mismanagement and lack of transparency surrounding its cost overruns.
Representative Brad Ashford (D-NE) said in a release, “After two days of discussion with the VA I've been informed that veterans receiving adult day care and other similar services will have their individual circumstances reviewed on a case-by-case basis." Ashford said the VA is taking steps to guarantee that those who currently receive critical services will continue to have their costs covered. He added, "More work remains to be done."
Quoted by the Omaha World Herald, local VA spokesman, Will Ackerman, said “the local office plans to review every veteran’s case before the end of the month, and it will continue funding for those who truly need it. Also, he said, hospice care won’t be affected, even though it is paid from the same non-skilled care fund that has run out.”