Akaka critical of VA budget report
The senator says that budget savings claims are unfounded
U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka said he is "distressed" that the Department of Veterans Affairs' health-care budget for the past three years has been "built like a house of cards."
Akaka was commenting yesterday on a Government Accountability Office report that said the VA "lacks adequate support for the $1.3 billion it reported as actual management efficiency savings achieved for fiscal years 2003 and 2004 because it lacked a sound methodology and adequate documentation for calculating and reporting management efficiency savings."
Akaka said that replacing the Bush administration's unfounded savings claims in the VA budget would have averted the need for the $1.3 billion supplemental request in 2005.
"It would have prevented the administration's need to increase all pharmacy co-payments since 2002 and allowed 260,000 veterans access to VA's health-care system instead of being denied."
The Hawaii Democrat said the GAO report confirms his concerns that the VA has relied on "gimmicks and invisible savings to fund the VA health-care system."
A spokesman for the VA in Honolulu said local officials have never seen the GAO report.
"There is nothing to comment," said Fred Ballard, VA spokesman, "since all of this was done on a higher level."
There are nearly 105,000 veterans in Hawaii. Of that number, 40,759 veterans are older than 65.
Akaka, ranking Democratic member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said the VA has to be careful with its money because there will be growing demand for its services.
Current VA estimates indicate that up to 30 percent of service members returning from the Middle East will require some mental health or readjustment counseling, Akaka said.
Of the 25 percent to 30 percent of the vets receiving mental health services from the Hawaii VA, more than one-third are diagnosed with debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.