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Key House lawmaker rejects VA's request for billions in funding

House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., right, questions Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 11, 2014, during the committee's hearing investigating the deal that secured the end of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's five-year captivity. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. is at left. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) AP Photo/Susan Walsh

House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) has rejected the idea of giving the Department of Veterans Affairs billions of dollars more to resolve the myriad of problems it's had delivering healthcare to veterans.

In a Senate hearing Wednesday, Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson said the VA needs $17.6 billion more to hire 10,000 more employees to deal with the healthcare problems.

House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., right, is rejected the Department of Veterans Affairs' request for $17.6 billion to help resolve the VA healthcare crisis. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

But Miller said the House has asked the VA repeatedly if it needs more resources, and the VA has said it does not. Miller said the sudden proposal for $17.6 billion is a number that "seems to have magically fallen out of the sky today."

"I am committed to giving VA the resources it needs to provide our veterans with the care and benefits they have earned," he said. "But if there's one thing we've learned over the last few months, it's that we can't trust VA's numbers.

"That includes the $17.6 billion in additional funding Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson asked for today."

On the House floor, Miller said several reports have shown that the VA is a money-wasting machine. For example, he said Gibson's request for $6 billion for new construction would throw more money into a system that has led to huge delays and cost overruns at the VA.

"Why would we automatically stand up, salute and write a check when the inspector general and the GAO have both said we cannot trust VA's numbers on multiple occasions?" Miller asked.

Miller added that the VA has proven to have a "corrosive culture" that would likely waste the $18 billion it's asking for. "We can't allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue to consider itself a sacred cow," he said, adding that what's needed at the VA is more oversight, not more money.

On the issue of giving the VA more money for medical care, Miller pointed out that the VA has been unable to spend all the money it's been given since 2010.

"So if VA truly needs this additional $17.6 billion, that would mean the VA administrators involved in past department resource allocation decisions are either incompetent, disingenuous or both," he said.

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