VA funding has tripled since 2001, will Robertson admit her error?
Martha Robertson, the Emily’s List-backed, DCCC “red to blue” challenger to Republican Tom Reed in NY-23, is a big supporter of single payer healthcare, although she’s dodged the issue during her campaign.
Robertson has stated openly prior to running that she see’s Obamacare as a stepping stone to single payer:
“We’ll get to single payer soon, but in the meantime, [Obamacare] is what we need to do.”
The Veterans Administration scandal poses a problem for Robertson, as it raises fears of what healthcare will be like if the government gains total control.
Robertson appeared recently with Nancy Pelosi, and was interviewed on local television. Robertson blamed the VA scandal on what she called decades of underfunding (emphasis added):
“And we see it’s not a matter of the care that they get once they get access to the care,” said Robertson. “There’s no question that they’re getting quality care and responsive care once they’re in the system. This is a problem of decades of underfunding the system altogether.”
Robertson could not be more wrong.
The VA’s problems are systemic, inherent to government bureaucracy running healthcare, not funding. According to a recent budget submission for fiscal year 2015, VA funding has increased dramatically year-over-year:
Funding has tripled since 2001, despite a decline in the number of veterans, as a former Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal:
Much has been said about how to fix the VA’s problems. Some say the department is underfunded. I disagree. The VA’s budget has more than tripled, to $154 billion in 2014 from $49 billion in 2001, the year I became secretary. In that time, the veteran population has declined to 21.9 million from 25.5 million.
It’s even reported that the VA has more money than it can spend:
Despite liberal claims that VA needs more funding, based on a report from the labor union the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) that VA is underfunded, the scandal-plagued department actually has a surplus in medical-care funding.
VA expects to carry over $450 million in medical-care funding from fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2015. VA received its full requested medical care appropriation of $54.6 billion this fiscal year, which is more than $10 billion more than it received four years ago.
A veterans advocate recently wrote at CNN:
The VA, some say, needs more money to do its job and care for veterans properly. But looking at the facts, that math just does not add up.
Since 2009, Congress has given Secretary Eric Shinseki every penny he has said he needed to fund the VA fully, resulting in an astonishing 50% increase in the agency’s overall budget at a time when budgets everywhere else across the federal government have been squeezed, strained and slashed. Congress even exempted the VA from sequestration, a win that not even the Pentagon managed to score while still engaged in a war overseas.
Congress also agreed to take the extraordinary step of giving the VA the annual funding it needs to cover veterans’ health care a year in advance so that the agency’s hospitals and clinics never run out of money. It is the reason the VA’s health care system continued to operate without interruption during last fall’s government shutdown, even as parks, federal buildings and congressional offices were forced to close or curtail operations for weeks.
Fully funding the VA appears to be among the only promises Barack Obama actually kept, as a PolitiFact fact check asserted:
Politifact has ruled claims of underfunding such as that made by Robertson to be “FALSE”:
On Face the Nation, Vanden Heuvel said, regarding the VA health care allegations, that “Congress has cut funding, has slashed funding, for veterans’ benefits over these last years.”
That’s incorrect, as vanden Heuvel acknowledged to PunditFact. VA health care and “veterans’ benefits” aren’t the same thing, and the pot of money that paid for VA health care has gone up every year. No reasonable definition of “cut” — much less “slash” — fits the data, experts told us.
We’re rating the claim she made on national television, and we rate it False.
Vanden Heuvel acknowledged her error.
Will Robertson do the same?
Don’t count on it. Robertson still has not corrected her false claim that GOP operatives were caught trying to take down her website during a crucial fundraising period.
(Note, I did not reach out to the Robertson campaign for comment because they have not responded to my calls and emails for months.)DONATE
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