WASHINGTON (CN) – After 20 years of crippling delays on veterans health care, President Barack Obama fulfilled a campaign promise Thursday when he signed into law a bill to advance funding for veteran medical programs. “With this legislation we’re fundamentally reforming how we fund health care for our veterans,” Obama said before signing the bill. “For the VA, this means timely, sufficient and predictable funding from year to year.”
For 20 of the last 23 years, the budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs has been approved late by Congress. Even now, the department is operating without a budget, causing delays in hiring, in the buying of medical equipment, and in the construction of new medical facilities.
“This is inexcusable. It’s unacceptable. It’s time for it to stop,” said Obama who co-sponsored the bill as a Senator from Illinois. “And that’s just what we’ll do with this landmark legislation.”
The legislation reforms the funding process so that veteran’s health care is funded a year in advance.
“For the VA, this means timely, sufficient and predictable funding from year to year,” Obama said. “For VA hospitals and clinics, it means more time to budget, to recruit high-quality professionals, and to invest in new health care equipment.”
During his presidential campaign, Obama said he would act to fix the budget delays.
The signing comes just weeks before Veterans’ Day.
“On Veterans Day, after all the parades and all the solemn ceremonies, a lot of veterans may ask, ‘does America really mean it? Will America keep its promise, not simply with words, but with deeds?'” Obama asked.
“Because of this reform legislation, the answer will be, ‘yes,'” he said. “We will fulfill our responsibilities. We will uphold our obligations to all who serve.”