Dems Demand More!

Dems Demand More!

Lawmakers demand more wartime funds for vets’ health careBy Rick MazeTimes staff writerOn the eve of a House committee’s passage of a $72.4 billion wartime supplemental funding bill, about 90 members of Congress are demanding that money be included to cover veterans’ health care costs.In a March 6 letter organized by Reps. John T. Salazar, D-Colo., and Lane Evans, D-Ill., lawmakers ask for a minimum of $630 million to be added to the supplemental for veterans programs, including $250 million for mental health services, $200 million for direct medical care, $110 million for prosthetics, $15 million for vocational rehabilitation and $55 million to increase the number of people processing disability claims.

The request for extra money was sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who would influence the outcome. The House Appropriations Committee plans to amend the administration’s supplemental budget request on Wednesday night.

There is no money in the administration’s request for the VA.Salazar is the newest member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, appointed only last month. Evans is the veterans committee’s top ranking Democrat, who has been pushing for big increases in the VA budget.In a statement, Salazar said, “With the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have created a whole new generation of veterans who need our care.

We cannot have a repeat of last year’s shameful budget shortfall. It is time for us to be honest in our budgeting and recognize the urgency of providing full funding for veterans’ health care. Our troops bravely put their lives on the line and it is our moral duty to provide them with the care and benefits they were promised.”Salazar was referring to the $2.5 billion shortfall discovered in the 2005 and 2006 budgets for the Department of Veterans Affairs that forced lawmakers to scramble and make last-minute changes in the overall federal budget last year to avoid serious problems.

VA officials have said the amended 2006 budget approved by Congress last year and the 2007 budget proposed by the Bush administration fully cover all costs associated with treating people injured in the global war on terrorism and providing earned benefits. But House Democratic aides said they have been hearing from some VA facilities that money is tight and that some services may have to be cut.

In the letter to Hastert, Democrats said they are just trying to act early to prevent last year’s problems. “Last year we saw the VA face disgraceful shortfalls in its health care budget, shortfalls that had a direct impact upon the care received by veterans,” the letter says.

“Ultimately the administration begrudgingly admitted these shortfalls and was forced to request additional resources.”“We are concerned that the administration may have once again underestimated the total number of veterans who will seek services at the VA, including new veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,” the letter adds. “We strongly urge you to correct the administration’s oversight and recognize that caring for our veterans is an ongoing cost of war.”
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Press release is printed below:
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Dems Call for Vets Care in Supplemental
HOUSE DEMS CALL FOR VETS CARE TO BE INCLUDED IN IRAQ SUPPLEMENTAL“Providing for Veterans Is Continuing Cost of War”Tuesday March 7, 2006Contact: Nayyera Haq (Salazar) 202.225.3319 Geoffrey Collver (Evans) 202.225.9756WASHINGTON, DC – Led by their most junior and senior Members on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Congressman John Salazar (D-CO) and Congressman Lane Evans (D-IL), House Democrats today moved to prevent a repeat of last year’s shameful shortfall in funding for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

In a letter sent to Speaker Hastert this morning, more than 120 House Democrats called for the inclusion of $630 million in veterans’ health care funds as part of the President’s $72.4 billion Iraq War Supplemental request:“We believe that providing for our military veterans and their families is a continuing cost of war and an important component of our national defense.

We are concerned that the Administration may have once again underestimated the total number of veterans that will seek services at the VA, including new veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Mr. Speaker, we strongly urge you to correct the Administration’s oversight and recognize that caring for our veterans is an ongoing cost of war.

” Said Salazar: “With the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve created a whole new generation of veterans who need our care. We cannot have a repeat of last year’s shameful budget shortfall. It is time for us to be honest in our budgeting and recognize the urgency of providing full funding for veterans health care. Our troops bravely put their lives on the line and it is our moral duty to provide them with the care and benefits they were promised.”

The complete text of the letter and the full list of signatories follows:Honorable Dennis HastertSpeakerU.S. House of RepresentativesWashington, DC 20515Dear Mr. Speaker:We believe that providing for our military veterans and their families is a continuing cost of war and an important component of our national defense. We simply have no excuse for not meeting their needs.

For some, it easy to forget that budgets and numbers ultimately reflect our priorities and affect real people. Indeed, by failing to include any money for veterans’ health care and readjustment services in the $72.4 billion emergency war supplemental request, the Administration again has failed to acknowledge the added stress and resource demands the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are placing on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Accordingly, we respectfully request that you work with the Appropriations Committee to provide additional resources for the VA within the emergency war supplemental.We believe that at least $630 million is urgently needed to care for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the heroes from prior conflicts who rely upon the VA for their health care. Specifically, we are seeking $250 million to support increased demand for mental health services for returning troops; $200 million for direct medical services, including treating traumatic brain injury and other complex blast injuries, and additional resources for the VA’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers; $110 million for increased demand for VA prosthetics; $15 million for medical and vocational rehabilitation services; and $55 million for increased staff to process the growing disability claims backlog of more than 370,000, including claims homeless disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are waiting months for decisions.

Mr. Speaker, last year, we saw the VA face disgraceful shortfalls in its health care budget, shortfalls that had a direct impact upon the care received by veterans. Ultimately, the Administration begrudgingly admitted these shortfalls and was forced to request additional resources. We are concerned that the Administration may have once again underestimated the total number of veterans that will seek services at the VA, including new veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Mr. Speaker, we strongly urge you to correct the Administration’s oversight and recognize that caring for our veterans is an ongoing cost of war.

Sincerely,John SalazarLane EvansNancy PelosiSteny HoyerJames ClyburnJohn LarsonJohn SprattIke SkeltonStephanie HersethTed StricklandShelley BerkleyVic SnyderTom UdallLuis GutierrezBob FilnerDarlene HooleySilvestre ReyesCorrine BrownMike MichaudZoe LofgrenCarolyn McCarthyEd CaseDebbie Wasserman-SchultzLloyd DoggettRobert BradyRobert WexlerAdam SmithMike ThompsonMark UdallJoe CrowleyStephen LynchJoe BacaMike DoylePatrick KennedyJim DavisDavid ScottFrank PalloneAllyson SchwartzJim McGovernBrian HigginsAlbert WynnStephanie Tubbs JonesRush HoltTammy BaldwinDavid WuJan SchakowskyJim McDermottKendrick MekTom AllenRobert ScottSusan DavisRahm EmanuelRaul GrijalvaBen ChandlerDonna Christian-ChristensenEddie Bernice JohnsonDanny DavisDiana DeGetteAl GreenJulia CarsonGrace NapolitanoLois CappsHilda SolisDennis KucinichEd MarkeyWilliam JeffersonPeter DeFazioEleanor Holmes NortonRick BoucherPaul KanjorskiHenry WaxmanBernard SandersGary AckermanBarney FrankPeter ViscloskyRosa DeLauroJerry CostelloAlan MollahanBart GordonMarion BerryDoris MatsuiGene TaylorJohn DingellNita LoweyLucille Roybal-AllardCarolyn MaloneySherrod BrownAlcee HastingsMarcy KapturTom LantosMaurice HincheyMike McIntyreRobert AndrewsSolomon OrtizMadeline BordalloBarbara LeeRon KindDiane WatsonCharlie GonzalesTim RyanMartin MeehanChet EdwardsBen CardinEarl BlumenauerJerrold NadlerJames OberstarBrian BairdSanford BishopDan LipinskiWilliam Lacy ClayNeil AbercrombieAdam SchiffBart StupakLouise SlaughterWilliam DelahuntNorm DicksEliot EngelMaxine WatersEdolphus TownsRick LarsenXavier BecerraDavid PriceDale KildeeElijah CummingsMike RossJim Langevincc: Honorable Jerry Lewis, Chairman, House Committee on AppropriationsTom ManatosAdvisor to the LeaderHouse Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi(202) 225-0100tom.manatos@mail.house.gov
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