House Passes Tipton Amendment to Cut Waste, Redirect Resources to Reduce VA Backlog

 

WASHINGTON –Today, Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) attached two amendments to the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which then passed the House with bipartisan support. Tipton’s first amendment takes $10 million in wasteful spending used for conferences from the $403 million budget of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) and directs those funds to help address the VA backlog. Tipton’s amendment was agreed to with unanimous consent.

Tipton spoke on the House floor on the need for that amendment prior to passage.

 Watch Tipton’s speech here.

 Transcript of Tipton’s remarks:
 

Mr. Chairman I rise today with an amendment to reduce wasteful spending by the Department of Veterans Affairs on conferences and use the money to assist with addressing the VA backlog and processing disability claims for veterans.

Two-thirds of all veterans who file disability claims with the VA must wait longer than 125 days to receive their benefits.  I have seen this first hand from constituents in my district, people who have contacted my office in sheer exasperation by the lack of response and endless delays by the VA in processing their claims.

The thing is, this isn’t just a statistic we’re talking about, this is literally people’s lives. Many of the veterans on the backlog are in desperate need of care –care that has been delayed needlessly because of the bureaucratic backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This is deplorable, Mr. Chairman. The VA Backlog has grown by over 2000 percent over the past four years despite an increase in the VA budget of more than 20%. As of March 28, of this year, the VA reported there are over 606,000 backlogged claims and 865,989 total claims. Nearly 900,000 veterans who sacrificed for our country are not getting their benefits. They are not getting the care they need.

Our veterans deserve better.

Despite the inability for the VA to process claims in a timely manner, the Agency continues to waste money on unnecessary conferences. In September of 2012, the VA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report highlighting numerous abuses and expenditures by the VA at conferences. That report included numerous troubling findings.

According to the report the VA spent more than $6.1 million on two Human Resources conferences in Orlando and nearly $100,000 on unnecessary promotional items like bags, pens and water bottles. In addition to these examples, the report included information on many more instances of waste fraud and abuse at the VA.

Following the release of the OIG Report, Congressman Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs stated ‘it can be reasonably concluded that 10-15 percent of VA’s conference spending is wasteful, amounting to $10-15 million a year, at the least.’ I wholeheartedly agree with Chairman Miller.

That is why today I am proposing this amendment to target $10 million dollars in wasteful spending on conferences from the Secretary’s $403 million budget and reprioritize these funds to assist with addressing the VA backlog.

It’s time that the VA focus its efforts on serving our veterans and processing its claims in a reasonable amount of time. Not in 125 days or more. The VA must reduce the backlog, and it won’t get it done by wasting time and taxpayer dollars at conferences. It’s time that benefits work for our veterans, rather than veterans having to work to get their benefits. I urge my colleagues to support this commonsense amendment.

In addition to this amendment, Tipton joined three of his colleagues in co-sponsoring an amendment to prohibit the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from using any funds to pay performance bonuses to senior executive staff at the VA. That amendment was agreed to with unanimous consent as well.