Acting Chief: VA Needs $17.6 Billion to Clear Backlog

The Department of Veterans Affairs needs $17.6 billion in additional funding over the next three years to eliminate long waiting times for veterans’ healthcare appointments, the embattled agency’s acting chief said on Wednesday.

Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told senators that without additional resources to buy private care and increase internal capacity, “the wait times just get longer” as more veterans return from wars, get older and turn to VA for healthcare.

Gibson told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that the $17.6 billion request would only last through the 2017 fiscal year. About $10 billion of the total would be needed to purchase private care for veterans and hire about 10,000 additional clinical staff, including about 1,500 physicians.

But to keep ahead of the rising population of veterans needing VA care, even more money will be needed in the future, Gibson said.

“These funds represent only the current shortfalls in clinical staff, space, information technology and purchased care necessary to provide timely, high-quality care,” Gibson said.

The VA has been rocked by scandal in the past three months over systematic cover-ups of months-long waiting times for medical appointments at its clinics and hospitals across the country. In Phoenix, doctors have alleged that some 40 veterans died as their names languished on secret waiting lists while officials misrepresented wait-time data to meet targets for bonus compensation.