WASHINGTON – House Democrats on Wednesday blasted the Veterans Affairs Department for calling for a significant budget increase for 2021, calling the proposed spending increase at the expense of cutting other agencies a political coup.
“This is not a good faith proposal,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., Chair of the House of Appropriations subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies. . “I know it’s an election year and it’s a fun and easy thing to ask for the sun, moon and stars to help a people like our country’s veterans who deserve every moment. And we would be there, if possible.
Other Democrats on the committee also attacked the proposed increase, comparing it to President Donald Trump’s proposal for deep cuts to other federal agencies, including a 9% reduction in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention amid ‘a possible coronavirus epidemic.
“This size of an increase… it really sounds like presenting an unrealistic and political budget,” said Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii.
The VA is calling for a 14% increase in its 2020 budget to $ 243.3 billion for 2021 and is the only federal agency seeking a double-digit funding increase. The VA is the second largest federal agency, just behind the Department of Defense in terms of size and budget.
The proposed budget is the fourth time Trump has called for an VA increase, continuing a pattern established by previous administrations. The agency’s budget has grown steadily since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“In a perfect world, this mostly fantasy budget is a wonderful request. We would love to provide veterans with the best care and benefits money can buy, ”said Wasserman Schultz during the VA Budget Hearing. “However, the reality is that we live in a world with budget caps. What is frustrating is that the administration knows this and is essentially using our veterans as pawns in a political game. “
VA secretary Robert Wilkie stepped back, noting the gains the department has made in reducing wait times for medical appointments and hiring healthcare providers and administrative staff as well as technological innovations. such as a 5G hospital in Palo Alto, Texas.
“VA is no longer a place where excuses and systemic failures reign supreme,” Wilkie said. “[I was] asked to provide a budget to indicate to the country that veterans are a priority. “