Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FACT CHECK; VA Funding Diverted to Aid Syrian Refugees?

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FACT CHECK; VA Funding Diverted to Aid Syrian Refugees?

Article excerpt

Byline: Carole Fader

Times-Union readers want to know:

Did President Barack Obama divert $2.6 billion from veterans as part of $4.5 billion in aid to Syrian migrants?

This rumor started with an article from RedFlag News, "Obama Cuts 2.6 Billion From Veterans While Allocating 4.5 Billion To Syrian Migrants Moving To America," FactCheck.org reported. RedFlag News is a news aggregator and describes itself as "conservative in tone."

The RedFlag News piece combines two separate stories. FactCheck.org found: a gap in VA funding and the increased aid to Syrian refugees. While the VA was short $2.6 billion in 2015 for one program, this shortfall was covered with money from another VA fund, FactCheck.org reported. Obama did not "cut" veterans funding as the headline claimed, and the temporary shortfall did not have to do with the administration's decision to increase aid for refugees. Also, the $4.5 billion figure for humanitarian aid to refugees is a total for fiscal years 2012 through 2015, FactCheck.org reported.

In June 2015, Sloan Gibson, deputy secretary of veterans affairs, testified before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on a funding gap for the Veterans Health Administration's Care in the Community Program, which provides health care for veterans from non-VA medical professionals when a VA facility isn't able to provide certain specialty care. Gibson said that more veterans than predicted needed specialty care and had used the Care in the Community program in fiscal year 2015, and the VHA expected increased usage to continue through Sept. 30, 2015, the end of that fiscal year.

That usage would cost about $2.5 billion more than the previous year, Gibson said.

Part of the shortfall was due to the VA overestimating how much veterans would use the Veterans Choice Program, which allows veterans to get services from non-VA providers when there is a long wait for a VA appointment rather than through the Care in the Community.

In a February 2016 report on the VA's health care budget, the Government Accountability Office explained how VA predictions were faulty on which programs veterans would use in 2015, FactCheck. …

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