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Veterans Groups: VA Must Change its Funding Formula


WEBWIRE

WASHINGTON -- Recent announcements that the Department of Veterans Affairs had underestimated their fiscal 2005 and 2006 health care budgets by billions came as no surprise to the four veteransí service organizations who co-author The Independent Budget, now in its 19th edition.

Senior leaders from AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars were outspoken in their efforts to tell the administration and Congress that the VAís funding formula was flawed, and even though The Independent Budget recommendations proved to be far more realistic than the administrationís, thereís no gloating ó just concern.

A lot of dollar signs are currently being tossed about between the administration and Congress, to the point where the final outcome remains uncertain, but one thing remains clear to those who research, analyze and write The Independent Budget: the VA must change the way it projects future health care needs.

Veteransí groups are once again urging Congress to find a long-term solution to a funding crisis that continues to plague the VA, a solution that delivers funds on time to allow for long-term planning, and one that acknowledges the VAís own estimate that it needs annual increases of 12 to 14 percent just to keep pace with inflation and other uncontrollable expenses.

The Independent Budget co-authors acknowledge that money isnít the only solution to the VAís problems, but they also know that the lack of proper funding creates far more problems throughout the entire system.

The current budget shortfall is causing VA medical centers and clinics across the country to take drastic measures to reach Sept. 30, the end of the federal governmentís fiscal year. Some are shortening hours, not filling employee vacancies, or are not accepting new patients. Others have resorted to prescribing less expensive medications, or have replaced pricey, temporary staff with lower-paid, lesser skilled employees.

On a day the VA is celebrating as its 75th birthday, this budget belt-tightening is directly impacting its ability to provide timely, accessible and quality health care services to Americaís veterans.

Prominently displayed outside the front entrance to their headquarters in Washington is the VAís motto, a quote from Abraham Lincolnís second inaugural address. It reads: ďTo care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.Ē

On behalf of the nationís 25 million veterans, 2.2 million military members, and their families, The Independent Budget co-authors urge everyone in positions to effect change to remember Lincolnís words.

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The Independent Budget provides the nationís decision-makers a veteransí perspective on federal spending and national policy priorities for veterans programs. These recommendations are well-considered policy and funding proposals based on the actual needs of the men and women these programs were created to serve. As a comprehensive, authoritative policy document, The Independent Budget focuses on funding recommendations for veteransí health care, benefits delivery, medical facilities construction, veteransí cemeteries and other so-called discretionary programs that will be needed in the coming fiscal year. Congress is required by law to provide sufficient funds for compensation and pension payments and other mandatory spending, so The Independent Budget does not make specific recommendations for those programs.

A leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by Americaís Armed Forces, AMVETS provides not only support for veterans and the current military in procuring their earned entitlements, but also community services that enhance the quality of life for this nationís citizens. For more information, visit the organizationís Web Site at http://www.amvets.org.

The 1.3 million-member Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932, represents this nationís wartime disabled veterans. It is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for our nationís disabled veterans and their families. For more information, visit the organizationís Web Site at http://www.dav.org.

Founded in 1946, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is the only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely for the benefit and representation of individuals with spinal cord injury or disease. PVA is a dynamic, broad-based organization with more than 21,000 members in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. To learn more about PVA, visit its Web site at http://www.pva.org.

Founded in 1899, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is the largest organization of combat veterans in the nation. The VFW is a nonprofit veteransí service organization with more than 2.4 million VFW and Ladies Auxiliary members located in approximately 9,000 VFW Posts worldwide. Additional information can be found at http://www.vfw.org.



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