The Biden administration has walked back plans to send Veterans Affairs medical staff from around the country to the southern border following an outcry from Republicans, who raised the fear that veterans would lack care.
“We are not making that request of the Veterans Affairs Department. And the Veterans Affairs Department will not be allocating resources to the border,” Mayorkas said in response to a question from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) about his comments before a House committee one week prior.
On April 27, Mayorkas testified that he was talking with McDonough about using VA medical staff to assist U.S. border officials, who are encountering more people illegally crossing the border than at any point in the past two decades.
Mayorkas said he “didn’t know the answer at the time in my prior hearing” but that as of Wednesday, the proposal was no longer on the table. Mayorkas did not disclose a reason for the change in course.
“Moving VA medical staff away from our veteran’s healthcare needs to examine illegal immigrants is a recipe for disaster,” the letter states. “Wait times for a veteran to see their doctor can average 22 days and reach as high as 42 days. This is unacceptable mismanagement of federal government resources by the Biden administration.”
Republicans in the House and Senate introduced bills in April to bar the government from repurposing VA staff for homeland security operations.
“Moving resources away from serving the needs of our veterans to supporting a foreseeable and avoidable crisis at our southern border is unacceptable,” Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), who introduced the Senate bill, said in a statement.
The VA has sent staff to vaccinate federal agents and officers at Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection a handful of times amid the coronavirus pandemic.