U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today regarding the Senate’s refusal to pay for S. 1963, the “Caregiver and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act,” by eliminating lower-priority programs.

“I support many of the goals of this legislation but we simply cannot continue to spend billions on new programs without paying for them.  If Senators would pay for this program and make a few common sense changes this bill could pass the Senate today.  Unfortunately, bill sponsors are more interesting in holding press conferences and playing political games than doing the hard work of legislating,” Dr. Coburn said.  “For instance, the Veterans Appropriations bill that is on the floor right now doesn’t provide a dime to pay for this program which means politicians are making a hollow promise to veterans.”

“Our nation’s veterans have made tremendous sacrifices in defense of our freedoms.  The least Senators should do is make the easy sacrifice of eliminating a small amount of wasteful spending to improve veterans’ health care.  Leadership, after all, is making sacrifices and hard choices.  Veterans and every family in America make hard choices every day between competing financial priorities.  It’s time for politicians in Washington to do the same,” Dr. Coburn said.

Dr. Coburn has sent bill sponsors a list of proposed offsets to pay this bill.  So far, Senators have not agreed to eliminate a single lower-priority program to serve our nation’s veterans.

“The American people and our veterans understand that our spending problem has become a national security problem.  We are borrowing massive sums from potential adversaries and are watching the value of the dollar decline because other nation’s doubt our ability and willingness to pay off our $12 trillion debt.  If we don’t start making hard choices we may not have a country left to defend,” Dr. Coburn said.

Dr. Coburn is also concerned that S. 1963 discriminates against Vietnam veterans, Gulf War I veterans, and World War II veterans, all of whom are excluded from this program.  The bill also duplicates some existing programs which are designed to help veterans who need care in their homes rather than nursing homes or hospitals.  More background on Dr. Coburn’s concerns is here.