Paralyzed Veterans of America Urges Open-Minded Debate on Future Funding For Veterans Healthcare

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WASHINGTON, July 22, 2017 – Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) today weighed in on options being considered to fund the veteran “choice” program, as the House of Representatives considers a vote on a draft bill, S. 114 as amended, on Monday, July 24. Priorities for the organization include open discussion on the best way to build up specialized veteran-centric services offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), while expanding access to non-specialized healthcare for veterans without cutting critical non-healthcare VA benefits.

“The notion of streamlining VA is a necessary discussion that must continue. The devil is in the details, though,” said Sherman Gillums Jr., executive director of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We do support the responsible ‘right sizing’ of VA, starting with the elimination of redundancies and ultimately using cost savings to increase reinvestment in VA’s foundational services, such as spinal cord injury care. Offsets, at least in part, may be necessary in order to achieve that.”

Offsets, or program and benefit trade-offs used for budgeting purposes, are not new to VA. Past offsets include fees and collections related to housing loans and extensions in the reduction of certain pensions used to pay for other benefits. However, this is the first time Congress is requiring VA to include deficit reduction as a component of the agency’s plan to maintain and expand the VA Choice Program. Moreover, some veteran advocates have expressed staunch opposition to offsets because they require VA to employ a “rob Peter to pay Paul” approach to funding programs.

“Paralyzed Veterans’ main concern is that using these offsets to pay for VA healthcare comes at the expense of expanding non-healthcare benefits, such as disability compensation,” explained Gillums. “However, we are not prepared to simply oppose offsets because we believe VA is open to strengthening healthcare for our most catastrophically disabled veterans, which matters above all else. Paralyzed Veterans leads as an expert voice on the most complex healthcare challenges these veterans face, and we intend to use that voice to promote new ideas and progress.”

“The bottom line is the discussion must continue with open minds on all sides,” concluded Gillums.