Is the Department of Veterans Affairs providing much needed resources to illegal migrants while veterans continue to wait for health care and other necessities? That’s what some Republicans claim and will be holding a meeting today (Jan. 17) to discuss possible VA funding misuse.
VA Personnel Tasked With Helping Illegal Migrants
ICE and the VA have an arrangement that was set up in 2002 where the immigration agency pays the Veterans Affairs Financial Service Center (FSC) to process medical claims for ICE’s Health Services Corps (IHSC). In fiscal year 2022, the FSC processed $94.3 million worth of claims for ICE: the year before that, $74 million, according to a Department of Homeland Security report, Healthcare Costs for Noncitizens in Detention.
According to the VA’s website, claims by veterans and their families still waiting decisions, is around 417,855. In late 2022, that number was 150,000. The slow-moving wheels of the agency tasked with helping our soldiers seems to be falling even further behind, so why are they using resources to help migrants who entered the country illegally?
Derrick Van Orden (R-WI) is a retired Navy SEAL who sits on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He told New York Post, “It is incredibly insulting to our veterans who risked our lives defending this nation, and it should shock the American taxpayers that the Biden administration is using VA resources to provide health care to illegal aliens.” He said the collaboration between the VA and ICE is “despicable and needs to be stopped immediately,” saying, “many veterans have to travel hours and wait weeks to be seen at a VA facility.”
VA spokesperson Terrence Hayes told the outlet that the “VA does not provide or fund any health care to ICE detainees.” He added, “This involves no more than 10 employees and is fully funded by ICE. This has no impact [on] veteran care or services. At no time are any VA health care professionals or VA funds used for this purpose.”
Still, the ten VA personnel focusing on illegal migrants could be helping with the veteran backlog claims, critics suggest. Furthermore, community programs that have helped veterans in the past are being used for the undocumented, making it more difficult for the nation’s heroes to get the help they need. A spokesperson for the office of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) addressed this to The Post, saying the Biden administration is “playing word games.” They said, “They can’t deny that they’re using Community Care Network providers for illegals. By definition, that means worse options for our veterans,” referring to services such as urgent care, dialysis, and surgeries. Continuing:
“The program thrived under President Trump, but President Biden is now actively pulling back community care options for our heroes. This giveaway to illegals is a slap in the face to our veterans and it’s a slap in the face to the taxpayer.”
In December 2023, Tuberville, and chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Mike Bost (R-IL), suggested legislation that would bar the VA from “using its resources to provide health care or engage in claims processing for illegal migrants.”
Joni Ernst (R-IA) told the New York Post, “Biden’s bureaucratic backlog at the VA built up as they took bubble baths on the taxpayer’s dime. Not another second – or dollar meant for veterans – should be wasted to Band-Aid Biden’s border crisis.” She added:
“No calls from anyone who has served our country should go unanswered, but the Biden administration has made its priorities clear by wasting valuable VA resources to process illegal immigrants. Our veterans deserve better.”
In November 2023, the House Committee on Homeland Security, with Mark E. Green (R-TN) as chair, released an interim report during the investigations into Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and President Biden. In it, the committee claims the cost of taking care of illegal migrants could exceed $451 billion per year.
In the Healthcare Costs for Noncitizens in Detention report, it details and break downs more of the costs for carrying for illegal migrants. Here are a few takeaways from that report:
In FY 2022, IHSC provided direct care to more than 118,000 detained noncitizens from 19 different facilities in the nation. Services included medical, dental, mental health, and public health services for more than 1.1 million encounters. Of those, there were:
- 119,968 intake screenings
- 74,243 physical exams
- 110,339 sick calls
- 16,898 urgent care visits
- 18,110 emergency room and offsite referrals
- 11,381 dental visits
- 40,023 mental health interventions
- 202,017 prescriptions filled
“IHSC also oversaw compliance with health-related standards for over 120,500 detained noncitizens housed in 163 non-IHSC-staffed facilities, totaling over 41,500 beds,” the report explained. “IHSC executed a budget totaling approximately $323.7 million in FY 2022.”
And that’s just medical.
Do veterans have a valid complaint? The VA and ICE have had this program for over two decades, but never has there been such an illegal migrant crisis as there is now. Plus, the Department of Veterans Affairs claims the new PACT Act, passed in 2022, which expands health benefits to veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxins, has increased benefit applications – “surpassing previous records by nearly 40%,” Fox News reported.
Jaded political watchers might surmise that when the government admits to one number, it is almost certainly hiding another. But some numbers don’t lie. The waitlist for VA services has increased nearly threefold in the last year and a half, coincidentally, the same time period in which a flood of illegal aliens crossed the border. Whether Congress makes the fairly obvious connection will be revealed at today’s meeting.