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Congress Must Act to Change Method of Funding Veterans Health Care


WASHINGTON, June 30 -- “The flurry of activity this week as Congress scrambled to contain the fallout from the failure to properly fund veterans health care highlights what the veterans service organizations have been saying for years: The method of funding veterans health care needs surgery to regain its health,” said Thomas Corey, national president of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).

“Beyond the hasty supplemental appropriation Congress saw fit to pass, leaders from both parties now have to fix the system to provide sufficient resources to meet the healthcare needs of more than 100,000 recently returned veterans -- and the 5 million other veterans who use the VA’s health-care facilities,” Corey said.

“As we testified before the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees in April, the federal budget cannot and should not be balanced by taking away what veterans have earned by virtue of their service to our nation,” Corey said. "If it is the will of the American people to constrict the benefits to which veterans are statutorily eligible, then VVA challenges Congress here and now: Propose, introduce, hold public hearings, and debate the question of whether Americans want to limit access for ’certain’ veterans who fulfilled their military duty to our country yet are now deemed unworthy of access to VA health care.

“We have said this before, and we’ll say it again: The cost of caring for those who served in the military is an integral part of the cost of the national defense...Caring for veterans is not a Democratic cause. It is not a Republican effort. It is an American issue, one that cuts across political affiliations.”

Corey concluded: "VVA applauds those in Congress, including Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chair of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who serves on that committee, as well as Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.) and Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas). Their outrage at the apparent duplicity exhibited by VA officials who repeatedly assured them that the Administration had requested enough funding to care for the VA’s caseload has finally led to action.

“VVA estimates that $31.4 billion is needed in FY06 just to maintain the current level of the VA’s medical operations,” Corey concluded. “This is $2.6 billion more than Congress has appropriated. We urge Congress to appropriate these additional funds and take measures to establish a new mechanism that will guarantee sufficient and consistent funding for veterans health care - and ensure that such a ’budget gap’ does not occur again.”


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