VAM Email Alert: January 2019



Government Shutdown Won’t Affect VA Care

With the ongoing government shutdown, we thought it prudent to remind readers that this lapse in funding will not affect the care received from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thanks to foresight and understanding from Congress that necessary care for veterans should never be held hostage in a budget negotiation, the VA is funded through what is known as an advanced appropriations process, meaning the VA receives its money a full year ahead of other departments funded by the regular appropriations process. This is great news for veterans, since a government shutdown will have no impact on the work of the VA. 

But a Shutdown Does Affect Patients in Other Ways

On December 22nd, 2018 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) entered a “lapse period” where funding for the agency through congressional appropriations ran out. The ongoing lapse period will continue until an agreement is made on a fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill or a continuing resolution is passed to provide operational funds. During this funding lapse, the FDA will have limited functionality and may engage in only the following activities: (1) activities necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life and (2) activities funded by carryover funds, including but not limited to user fees.

Examples of operational core functions can be found on this statement from the FDA, and include supporting medical product recalls when products endanger patients, as well as screening medical products imported into the US. Much of the remainder of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), of which the FDA is a part, will remain open because they were previously provided with funding. 

VA Begins to Shift Funds to Cover Private Care for Veterans

As a result of the VA Mission Act passed last May, the Department of Veterans Affairs is set to move billions of dollars away from government run VA facilities to cover the cost of private sector care for veterans. The proposed rule changes would make it easier for veterans to receive care at a private hospital and simply have the VA pay for it, but experts estimate it would cost significantly more per patient, resulting in less available funding for all VA run facilities. This issue could become crucial for specialty care patients with high cost treatments, such as those with myeloma. Critics, which include nearly every major veterans’ organization, are also concerned with the sudden strain on private sector healthcare facilities if too many VA patients are switched too quickly.

Proponents of moving to privatization argue that veterans will receive better, more streamlined care in quicker fashion. Choice of facility has also been touted as a major advantage for VA patients, especially in rural areas where access to a VA facility requires significant travel.

Specifics on the proposal have not been made public, but rumors persist that the President may provide greater details during his State of the Union address later this month. The precursor to the Mission Act, the Veterans Choice Program, was especially popular for rural patients.

This alert is part of our ongoing coverage on the issue of VA privatization. Please see our past email alerts for previous stories or if you are a new subscriber, email [email protected].


Back to Square One for Blue Water Navy Veterans Legislation

With the swearing in of the 116th Congress we begin a new legislative session over the next two years. Previously discussed issues, such as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act and Burn Pit legislation, will need to be reintroduced and supported by congressional members. VAM would like to take a moment to thank those of you who acted last year to push for issues important to you and your family. We hope that as these and other actionable issues are addressed legislatively that you will again lend your support to help improve access for veterans.

Thank you, and Happy New Year.


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