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Friday, March 23, 2007

$3.5 Billion More for Veterans Care Over Bush Budget in Controversial House Bill

Passing by a margin of 218-212, HR 1591 (also known as the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health, and Iraq Accountability Act of 2007) includes a measure challenging the president and requiring the eventual withdrawal of forces from Iraq by 2008. The bill, however, also adds $3.5 billion more (increasing the total to $6.6 billion) for healthcare funding for veterans and active forces than was sought from Congress in the president's 2008 budget.

From The Nation:

After Congressman Bob Filner read the Washington Post's series on the scandalous treatment of injured soldiers at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he called Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and delivered a simple message: Their party had to fund the wounded warriors as well as the war--or instead of it. For years Filner, a liberal Democrat who represents the military stronghold of San Diego, had been warning that the country's military and veterans hospitals were strained to the breaking point.

In the wake of Walter Reed, the public and the party were finally listening. House Democrats added $3.5 billion to an Iraq spending bill to treat brain injuries and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for returning soldiers and upgrade the country's 1,400 deteriorating veterans hospitals.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Details on the increased healthcare funding:

The increase approved by the House Budget Committee early Thursday on a 22-17 vote would add $3.5 billion to the Bush administration’s fiscal 2008 spending request for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, who helped push the budget committee for the increase, said the $6.6 billion jump would be the biggest one-year increase in VA’s 77-year history.

“With this budget, we say that supporting our veterans is a real cost of war, just as real as the cost of guns, tanks and bullets. If we are not willing to accept the full responsibility of that cost of war, we have no right to send brave young Americans to fight such a war.” ...

Edwards said the extra money would pay for researching and treating post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, the effort to reduce the six-month wait for processing claims, cutting the $4.9 billion backlog of maintenance and repair at hospitals and clinics, and treating what he estimated are 34,000 Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans with 'serious mental illness.' “Our veterans have stood up for us. Now it is time for us to stand up for them,” he said.

The increase is appreciated by veterans groups. Bradley Barton, national commander of Disabled American Veterans, said the budget increases “will make a real difference in the lives of America’s sick and disabled veterans.”

“This much-needed funding increase will allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to better meet the needs of the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as all veterans who have served in the past,” Barton said. “Funding must keep pace with rising health care costs and an expected increase in veterans seeking services from the VA.”

While the president aims to veto any legislation that might include a withdrawal of troops provision, hopefully we can save this important funding from the chopping block.

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