The VA Must Stop Working for Illegals

July 2, 2024 in Columnists, News by RBN Staff




It is a national embarrassment that lawbreakers from abroad get better service than American veterans.


or far too long, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has fallen short in its mission “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those who have served in our nation’s military and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.” As someone who uses the VA system, I know first-hand the run-around often given to our veterans. Many veterans fight with the VA for years to get help. Some never receive it. Hung-up phones, never-ending waitlists, repeated delays of urgent treatments—veterans are familiar with the litany of neglect.

What’s worse: This poor treatment is occurring at the same time the VA has been processing medical claims for illegal immigrants.

Last December, I was shocked to read news reports uncovering the VA’s absurd arrangement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I led a letter with 23 of my colleagues to VA Secretary McDonough. To my surprise, the secretary confirmed that VA employees do indeed work on medical claims for illegal immigrants in ICE custody. With illegal immigration at all-time highs thanks to the Biden Administration’s reckless border policies, I expect their workload is quite high these days.

VA personnel are tasked with serving claims for government-funded healthcare for an invasion of illegal immigrants, despite the longstanding issues with its claims backlog and customer service. In particular, the VA’s disability claim backlog has been a source of significant frustration in the veteran community. After several years under the Trump administration in which the VA disability claims backlog was consistently under 100,000 claims, the backlog has nearly tripled under the Biden Administration—up to 273,307 as of last week. This is an abject failure, and our veterans deserve better.

Even if the VA were a well-oiled machine running ahead of schedule, I wouldn’t support diverting resources to illegals. Yet the fact that the agency already struggles to provide satisfactory care to veterans makes the contractual agreement between the VA and ICE even more troubling. Further, Congress appropriates funds to the VA to provide services to our veterans, not to illegal immigrants. Imagine how much those employees could accomplish if they put all their time and resources towards serving those who sacrificed for our country, instead of working for foreign lawbreakers. The contrast could not be starker. It is a slap in the face to our veterans and hardworking American taxpayers.

I firmly believe veterans are owed an apology by our government for this alarming policy, but we must do better than apologies. We must correct course and ensure the VA stops working for illegal immigrants.

I’m glad my colleagues in the House agreed with me and approved of my amendment to the House-passed Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. My amendment ensures that no VA funds may be used to process medical claims for ICE. I am also pleased that the bill prohibited the VA from providing benefits directly to illegal aliens. It once was noncontroversial to say that VA resources are solely intended for veterans and their survivors. Today, it requires Congressional amendments to ensure the VA’s mission stays on track. The Senate must fight to ensure the final version of this bill also puts veterans over illegals.

The VA exists to serve American veterans who risked their lives to protect our great country. Many sacrificed immensely and came back from deployments with life-altering physical and mental injuries requiring lifelong care. Our government promised to care for them. Meanwhile, illegal immigrants in ICE custody receive “comprehensive medical and mental health care for noncitizens from the moment they arrive at a facility,” as stated on Migrants have “access to daily sick calls, 24 hour emergency care,… screening, prevention, health education, diagnosis, and treatment while in ICE custody.” With how slow-moving the VA has become, veterans are right to feel slighted by the immediate, comprehensive care illegals receive, and even question if our government prioritizes illegal immigrant care over our veterans.

It’s far past time to start providing our veterans with world-class care. Yet we keep forcing our veterans to use the same old system.

I represent one of the largest veteran populations in the country in Southwest Florida. That’s why it’s an abomination that the VA hospital serving Florida’s 17th Congressional district ranks in the bottom five percent of veteran hospitals nationally.

I firmly believe veterans deserve choice when it comes to their healthcare. My priority legislation, the Veterans True Choice Act, would expand health insurance options for disabled veterans and give service-connected veterans the ability to use Tricare Select and Tricare for Life. Recent reports show that as many as 24 veterans die each day from suicide. My legislation will save lives by giving those in crisis options outside of the slow, failing VA.

Standing up for our nation’s heroes is always at the forefront of my work in Congress. After fulfilling my service obligation in the U.S. Army and deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I know what our veterans experience as they return home. The absolute last thing our veterans need is to compete with illegal immigrants for VA resources, navigate bureaucratic red tape, and suffer with unsatisfactory medical care at the very agency dedicated solely to serving our heroes.

Our veterans served our country honorably, and it is high time that our government starts serving them.