U.S. Senator Mike Enz, R-Wyo., released the following statement on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017.
"We owe our veterans, who have sacrificed for their country, our careful consideration of legislation that would affect them so much. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act is no exception. Yet the Veterans Administration continues to have serious concerns. This could impact veterans across the board. We need to carefully increase benefits.
"As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee tasked with oversight and enforcing rules on government spending, I have to be concerned that the bill would cost far more than originally estimated. More than that, I am concerned that this bill as it stands would harm the VA itself and thus all the veterans it is tasked with serving. The VA is already struggling with an enormous backload of unaddressed cases leaving many veterans without the care they need when they need it. I have personally spent a lot of time working with VA leadership to ensure Wyoming veterans get timely care. We must take care of our veterans, but we need to be sure additional benefits can be administered effectively and without delays. The VA has expressed these warnings. If we’re going to make a promise to our veterans, it must be one that we can keep and one that is fair to each veteran.
"According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bill would cost at least $1.3 billion more than the original estimate. The VA’s analysis shows the cost could be nearly five times what Congress assumed it was when the House passed it. The bill’s sponsors have paid for their cost estimates by increasing home loan fees for veterans, but even that doesn’t offset the true cost of the bill.
"We need to take care of our veterans, but we need to do it in such a way as not to harm other veterans and we need to have a better idea of the costs before we greatly expand a new program. I look forward to continuing work on this legislation to ensure it best fits with the needs of all veterans."
The Veterans Administration itself has also voiced its own concerns, which you can see listed in a letter. And a bipartisan group of former Secretaries of the VA have also penned a letter expressing concerns with the bill.