WASHINGTON (AP) — Affairs Secretary David said Tuesday he expects a spending boost in President Donald Trump’s budget for programs, escaping big-time proposed cuts slated for other domestic programs.
Speaking at an American Legion conference, also indicated to reporters that he would seek “hundreds” more exemptions to a federal hiring freeze for the Department of Affairs.
“There will be an increase in resources,” he said, citing rising demand for VA services and a need to move quickly on a major overhaul of the department’s health services to reduce long wait times.
“I’m confident this budget is going to reflect the president’s commitment to deliver on his promise to make ‘ care better and stronger and to transform the VA,” said.
The 57-year-old physician, who previously served as VA’s top health official under the Obama administration, addressed America’s largest ‘ organization as it and other groups prepared to outline their spending wish-lists to Congress. Trump’s preliminary budget blueprint seeks a surge in mostly military spending while slashing domestic programs and foreign aid as a whole by about 10 percent.
Major changes are already in the works, said, including: Initiatives to combat the high rate of suicide among , to be announced in the next two weeks; a House bill to increase employee accountability, which was introduced Tuesday; and a revamp this fall to a program aimed at allowing to seek private care more easily in collaboration with the VA.
That change to the program, which was passed by Congress after a 2014 wait-time scandal, would ease restrictions on outside care. Currently, may seek outside care only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or would have to drive more than 40 miles to a facility.
“We don’t need any more studies or commissions on how to fix the VA,” said, pledging to work with Congress and ‘ groups but noting that there were already more than 140 reports put together over recent years on improving the VA. “What we need to do is begin to get to work.”
He said he was asking the White House to exempt hundreds more VA positions under the federal hiring freeze. The White House previously had agreed to exempt roughly 37,000 out of 45,000 VA vacancies, mostly in the health care area, but ‘ organizations and Democratic lawmakers there should be more exempted.
said he would push for additional “small areas” of exemptions to help process disability benefits and operate ‘ cemeteries.
On employee accountability, said he supported a bill introduced by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., who chairs the House Affairs Committee, that would allow him to fire bad employees more easily.
“There are high expectations for us to make changes to the VA and the secretary needs to have authority,” said.
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