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Clinton Would Add Tens of Billions to VA Spending, Trump Even More

Unlike Trump, Clinton would erase sequester caps and boost funding for all federal agencies.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both proposed increasing spending on the Veterans Affairs Department by at least tens of billions of dollars over 10 years, according to an analysis of each of their plans.

Trump’s proposals would come with a much heftier price tag, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group advocating fiscal responsibility. The presumptive Republican nominee would add between $500 billion and $1 trillion to the deficit with his VA reforms, CRFB said, in large part due to his plan to give all veterans immediate care from any doctor who accepts Medicare.

Congress in recent years has regularly boosted VA’s appropriations, though it has started to receive some pushback for failing to eradicate some longstanding problems while continuing to ask for more money.

Like Trump, Clinton has proposed boosting certain VA services, though her reforms would cost an estimated $50 billion. She has proposed making permanent a tax credit to boost veteran hiring and overhauling vets’ benefits, among other changes.

Unlike Trump, Clinton has said she would roll back the spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act, boosting funding at all non-defense federal agencies. CRFB said that plan would cost $300 billion over 10 years, though Clinton has left the door open for leaving some caps in place, emphasizing instead her administration would target the Defense Department and civilian agencies in a “balanced way.”

Trump has made little specific reference to the spending caps often referred to as sequestration, but has often discussed building up the “depleted military” and making it “bigger, better, stronger than ever before.” Rolling back just the defense portion of the budget caps would cost $450 billion over 10 years, CRFB said. Clinton’s plan could come with a similar price tag, as she too has discussed “permanently ending the damaging sequester.”

All told, when factoring tax and spending policies, the think tank estimated Trump would add $11.5 billion to the debt over 10 years, while Clinton would add $250 billion.

In his previously released VA reform plan, Trump said the department had excused “corruption and incompetence.” He proposed giving veterans an identification card they could take to any hospital that accepts Medicare to receive care “immediately.”

He accused the VA of lacking “the right leadership and management.” The businessman said the changes would improve the department by boosting competition.

“The power to choose will stop the wait time backlogs and force the VA to improve and compete if the department wants to keep receiving veterans’ health care dollars,” Trump wrote in his plan.

The proposal also contained a variation on a familiar refrain, altered to apply to holding employees accountable: Trump vowed to “make the VA great again by firing the corrupt and incompetent VA executives who let our veterans down.” He added that underperforming VA supervisors would have “no job security,” modifying another of his most well known catchphrases: “They’re fired.”

Clinton has advocated “reorganizing and streamlining” the Veterans Health Administration, ending the disability compensation backlog, increasing jobs for vets, and revamping the department’s employee performance evaluation system. The former State Department secretary also called for personnel management reform to “create a culture of accountability, service and excellence.”

“From the top leadership to mid-level managers to entry-level employees, everyone at the VA must embody the highest workplace standards,” Clinton’s wrote in her VA platform. “Supervisors must be empowered to suspend or remove underperforming employees in accordance with due process not only for the good of the organization, but in service of our nation’s veterans.”