Murkowski Blasts Democrats for Blocking Debate of VA Funding Bill
Senator: “Without An Opportunity To Debate, I Cannot Do What Alaskans Have Asked Me To Do.”
Today Senator Murkowski implored her Senate colleagues to allow debate on the appropriations bill that funds veterans’ health services and benefits, military housing and family support, and hospital and military construction. Ultimately, Senate Democrats blocked efforts to advance this bill, which failed to receive the 60 votes needed to proceed.
Prior to the vote, Murkowski spoke on the Senate floor about the amendments she had hoped to attach to the bill, relating to the failures of the VA healthcare system in Alaska. She expressed her desire to use the bill to increase the amount of money available for the VA to purchase care for veterans in Alaska from community providers when neither the VA nor the Choice Card program could serve their needs. She also planned to demand a Government Accountability Office investigation into why the Choice Card program is not working in Alaska.
(Senator Murkowski provides examples of Alaskans who have been failed by the Choice Card program. Click image to watch video.)
Speaking about the failures of the Veterans Choice Card program in Alaska, Senator Murkowski said:
“The Veterans Choice Card program is an unmitigated disaster in my home state of Alaska. And there are many reasons that this is the case. Because Alaska does not host a standalone veterans hospital the VA has issued a Choice Card to every veteran in the State of Alaska who is enrolled for healthcare. Structurally, the Veterans Choice Card program as it is currently designed will not provide Alaska veterans the choices it promises.”
Murkowski noted that the VA dodged a bullet this summer when it exceeded its national budget for purchased care and was at risk of shutting down entirely in August saying:
“But what does the VA’s failure to properly project the cost of purchased care mean for its FY16 appropriation? After asking the VA this question on several occasions I am left with the impression that the VA will once again run out of money for purchased care and will remedy this by shoving veterans into seeking care under the Choice Card whether that care is meaningfully available or not.”
Senator Murkowski concluded by expressing her frustration that the Senate Democrats were blocking this funding bill from advancing, saying:
“Without an opportunity to debate the FY16 VA appropriations bill on the floor, I have no opportunity to press this point, to demand that the GAO investigate what is going on, or to try to amend the bill to ensure that the VA has adequate purchased care money available so it does not drop veterans through the cracks when it cannot serve their critical health care issues and neither can the Choice Card program. And without the opportunity to debate this bill in regular order I cannot do what the people of Alaska have asked me to do.”