With budget talks in the spotlight, we turn to the Veterans Affairs Office which, like many other government agencies, is facing a proposed budget cut.
One million dollars … that is how much money veterans have asked VA Director Fred Bordallo to request for in the fiscal year 2020 budget. But realistically, Bordallo said they were only anticipating $715,000. But that, too, was cut down to just a little over $600,000.
“I explained to the Veteran Commission no director or administrator of the Veterans Affairs Office ever called for a million-dollar budget to finance eight or seven employees,” Bordallo said.
He says the budget trend since fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2019 is in the $600,000 range. In fact, in 2019, the VA was appropriated $603,000 but only operated on a budget of about $400,000. Bordallo says that despite the possibility of the VA office getting a hundred thousand dollars less for FY 2020, they will still be able to live within their means.
“Now I explained to the Veterans Commission that as people are watching this budgeting process, I don’t want the policymakers to say, well, since Director Bordallo survived with a $403,000 and making sure his staff were all paid, maybe we should cut his budget down from $550,000 down to $400,000 since he survived,” Bordallo said.
He says the budget is about making sure the staff at the VA’s office are paid and trained. The VA office relies on two funding sources appropriated from the General Fund and non-appropriated fund through Bank of Hawaii which reimburses the VA for the Veterans Cemetery.
In addition to this, there is also the Veterans Fund. Bordallo says despite the new proposed budget at $600,000 his plans and visions for the VA are not on the chopping block.
Bordallo has already announced plans to implement an auxiliary workforce component under which volunteers would be paid a stipend for their contributions. Meanwhile, plans to move the VA office to a new facility or Veterans Center is still in the works.
“The main point I tried to stress to the VA Commission was that it’s unrealistic to ask for a million dollars. But I will tell you this, as I did the transition here, I was looking at the different public laws that have been passed in recent years we have several public laws that have passed which have benefited veterans,” Bordallo said.
Taking this into consideration, while veterans are not going to see a million-dollar budget appropriated to the VA, looking at all the programs for veterans throughout the government of Guam, Bordallo says that cumulatively veterans are getting what they asked for moneywise.
He added that when it comes to the VA’s budget, it’s about managing the funding and doing something creative to reduce government expenses like cost-sharing or thinking outside the box when it comes to hiring essential employees.