Senate votes to give VA additional $1.5 billion

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The Senate voted 96-0 earlier this week to provide $1.5 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare programs to address a budget shortfall. But the action could face a funding fight.

On Thursday, the Bush administration indicated that the agency needs only $975 million. If the House follows the administration's guidance, the Senate would likely send it back to the House.
The funds, if approved, would be used by the VA not only to address this year's budget deficit but to help address an expected deficit in FY 2006. The Senate voted Wednesday to add the funding to the FY 2006 Interior appropriations bill (HR 2361).

VA Secretary James Nicholson and other department officials testified before Congress that the budget deficit will reach at least $1 billion for the department in FY 2005. The Bush administration has acknowledged that without the additional funding the budget deficit for VA health care programs could reach at least $2.6 billion in FY 2006.