VA may shut down hospitals in August due to $3B shortfall

The Department of Veterans Affairs is at risk of shutting down an unspecified number of hospitals by August if Congress doesn't fill a $3 billion shortfall by the end of July, according to The Hill.

The VA asked Congress in late June to approve a funding shift that would cover a roughly $3 billion budget gap in the department's Care in the Community program, which outsources medical care for veterans and covers Hepatitis C drug costs.

Deputy Secretary Gibson wrote in in a letter to lawmakers that the VA had to reallocate funding that was intended for other medical services programs to sustain the Care in the Community, which led to funds originally meant for clinical personnel salaries, medical equipment and other operations being shifted.

"It is essential that Congress pass legislation to provide the requested budget flexibility by the end of July 2015," Ms. Gibson wrote, according to the report. "This is necessary to replenish critical operations funding that VA had to reallocate from other medical services programs to sustain Care in the Community, after those funds were depleted ... if these program funds are not restored, VA will face shutting down hospital operations during August 2015."

The VA also submitted a formal legislative proposal that would secure $3 billion in funds so the VA's community care program can continue to operate until the end of the fiscal year in September.

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs panel, said it was "disturbing" that VA officials waited almost 9 months to disclose such a substantial shortfall to Congress, according to the report. Rep. Miller also said he would work with the Appropriations Committee to extend increased budget flexibility to the VA.

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