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First Gov  

October 6, 1997

H.R. 2206 - Veterans' Health Programs Improvement Act of 1997
(Rep. Stearns (R) FL and 9 cosponsors)

The Administration has no objection to House passage of H.R. 2206, which would (1) consolidate and clarify various VA programs to assist homeless and chronically mentally ill veterans and (2) test new approaches to treating illnesses of some Persian Gulf veterans. The Administration, however, has concerns about certain provisions of the bill, including:

  • The Administration particularly objects to the provision of H.R. 2206 that would prohibit States and localities from purchasing pharmaceuticals from the Federal Supply Schedule (FSS). The Administration recognizes that concerns exist about the effect on Federal buyers of opening up the pharmaceutical FSS, but believes there is enough uncertainty about the effect that a limited pilot is warranted. The Administration, therefore, supports a limited pilot program for pharmaceuticals, beginning with drugs used to treat HIV and HIV-related conditions and, following a study on the impact of the pilot, possible expansion to drugs used to treat other life-threatening conditions.

  • The Administration is concerned about two personnel provisions that would provide special treatment for certain groups of VA employees. One provision would make special pay for certain VA physicians and dentists creditable for retirement purposes. The other would exempt certain VA medical care personnel from Executive branch staffing initiatives, including reductions in the number of higher-graded employees. Both provisions are inconsistent with the Administration's workforce restructuring policy, would be inequitable in their preferential treatment of certain groups of VA employees, and would establish an undesirable precedent. In particular, the Administration supports incentives that use agency's discretionary resources to make one-time cash payments to separating employees rather than temporary changes to the retirement program, which increase direct spending over the long-term. The Administration urges the deletion of both provisions from the bill.
The Administration will work with the Senate to address these and other concerns.

Pay-As-You-Go Scoring

H.R. 2206 would affect direct spending; therefore, it is subject to the pay-as-you-go requirement of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990. OMB's preliminary scoring estimates of this bill indicate that it would increase direct spending by $12 million in FY 1998 and a total of $90 million over the period FYs 1998-2002. Therefore, if the bill were enacted and these FY 1998 costs are not offset during the remainder of this session of Congress, a pay-as-you-go sequester would be triggered at the end of the session.