Blumenthal, Isakson Applaud Passage of VA Budget and Choice Improvement Act

Legislation averts VA budget crisis, makes much-needed changes to Veterans Choice Program

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga. ) applauded the Senate passage of the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015 (H.R.3236).

Last month, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a budget shortfall of $2.6 billion. The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act addresses this gap by providing flexibility in existing funding to allow VA to transfer $3.348 billion from Veterans Choice funds for care provided at non-VA facilities. In addition, the bill creates a path for reforms to consolidate all of non-VA care programs into one – the Veterans Choice Program. Both Blumenthal and Isakson were key to ensuring these reforms were part of the final legislation.

“Today’s vote is an important, interim step, but now Congress must find a path forward that includes meaningful reforms to existing care options, ensuring a strong health care system for our veterans,” said Blumenthal. “I look forward to working with Chairman Isakson and committee members on both sides of the aisle to continue improving VA by increasing access to care. Further changes to care in the community must be done in a bipartisan, thoughtful way to ensure the best care possible for veterans.”

“This legislation addresses the VA’s budget shortfall by reorganizing money they already have to better meet the needs of veterans,” said Isakson. “This bill will bring private sector services to our veterans without hindering the services they already receive from the VA. Choice is a force-multiplier for VA health care, and I thank my colleagues for the work they have done to ensure that veterans receive the health care they deserve.”