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"NO" on S. 1982, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act.
February 27, 2014
Out of respect to those who have served the nation and for taxpayers, NTU urges all Senators to vote “NO” on S. 1982, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act. This legislation does not meet the needs of our veterans despite its hefty price tag.
A hodge-podge of veterans-related provisions, S. 1982 was brought to the floor under Rule 14 without first being subject to the committee process. A full mark-up might have helped avoid some of the duplicative programs S. 1982 would institute, including a new employment program for veterans on top of the six similar programs already in place. The bill expands the user-base for VA medical care by eliminating criteria that limited beneficiaries according to financial need and service-related injuries. Already, veterans who need the services of a specialist can expect to wait months for care as the VA faces an enormous backlog of 392,000 cases. Emerging scandals regarding expensive taxpayer-funded conferences, tragically delayed and botched care, and purged files aren’t problems that can be solved by expanding the scope of the VA medical system.
According to Senator Sanders (D-VT), his legislation will cost approximately $30 billion over the next ten years. The bill partially offsets this additional spending by once again dipping into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. Intended to underwrite operations in Afghanistan year-to-year, OCO is quickly becoming a slush fund to avoid tough decisions at the Pentagon. Only a few months ago, the Ryan-Murray Budget agreement effectively shifted $10 billion in OCO resources to the Pentagon’s base budget. As troops continue to draw down in Afghanistan, the future funding levels of OCO should likewise drop, making it a short-term funding source for new entitlement programs that would exist indefinitely.
Rather than expanding and reauthorizing troubled programs, Congress needs to first evaluate what works. Looking ahead, legislators should pursue cost-savings reforms that align incentives with the needs of our veterans, a modern military, and fiscal reality. Such changes should include injecting private-sector standards and discipline into the VA medical system and providing new enlistees with defined contribution retirement plans.
Roll call votes on S. 1982 will be included in our annual Rating of Congress and a “NO” vote will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.
If you have any questions, please contact NTU Federal Affairs Manager Nan Swift at (703) 683-5700