CRFB to Conferees: Care for Veterans but be Fiscally Responsible

Both the House and Senate have passed bills reforming the VA, and a conference committee must now meet to hammer out differences between the two bills. Yesterday, CRFB President Maya MacGuineas sent a letter to the 28 conferees, calling for the resulting bill to take a fiscally responsible approach and honor our nation's commitment to veterans without adding to the national debt.

The letter is available as a PDF here and the text is below.

Chairman Jeff Miller
Ranking Member Mike Michaud
House Committee on Veterans Affairs
334 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Chairman Bernie Sanders
Ranking Member Richard Burr
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
412 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510 

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members,
As you begin your work as a conferee on legislation to address the tragic problems uncovered at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget encourages you to work toward a final agreement that provides quality and timely health care for our nation’s servicemen and women in a fiscally responsible manner. Fully paying for new costs will strengthen the commitment to this national priority. We stand ready to work with you to achieve this goal.

It is a moral imperative that the United States takes care of its veterans. National priorities must be funded responsibly to provide a sustainable base for that commitment. Adding new costs to the nation’s credit card by providing unlimited funds or designating costs as “emergency” would violate basic principles of fiscal responsibility and would demonstrate to veterans that Congress is unwilling to make difficult choices to provide them the care they deserve.

As you work with your colleagues to find a solution, we strongly recommend that new spending in the conference agreement be subject to appropriations within the discretionary spending caps, the same as all other Veterans Affairs health spending. If you, as conferees, decide to provide mandatory funding, the funding level should be for a fixed amount – not an open-ended entitlement – and fully offset by other mandatory savings or revenues. We encourage you to identify or allow for such offsets and subject the budgetary effects of the bill to statutory PAYGO rather than grant a blanket emergency exemption from statutory PAYGO or the discretionary statutory spending caps. Finally, there should be ongoing evaluation to ensure the funds are being spent wisely and that more timely health care is secured for our veterans.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has identified a long list of savings options in the discretionary budget, mandatory budget, and tax code that could help free up room to prioritize veterans’ health needs.

We welcome the opportunity to work with you on potential offsets, and hope that you will take a fiscally responsible approach to meet our nation’s commitment to our veterans without saddling the next generation with additional debt.

See the letter as a PDF here.