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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Editorial: Veterans funding or permanent tax cuts?

From the Mankato [MN] Free Press editorial board:

The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate recently passed budgets that boost funding for veterans’ health care and other veterans’ needs at amounts higher than the Bush Administration’s proposal. The Bush budget boosts total VA funding by about 1.6 percent, or $1.7 billion.

The House bill adds about $600 million to the Bush proposal, which would bolster overall spending to about 2.6 percent. The Senate adds $3 billion, making the overall spending increase about 5 percent.

Many veterans groups have favored the congressional proposals saying the number of veterans entering the VA health system from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan warrants the extra funding. In fact, Congress and the president in the most recent fiscal year boosted VA funding by an “emergency” $3.7 billion appropriation midway through the budget year after seeing tremendous increases in health care costs for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. That figure is close to the increase being proposed by Bush.

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.


The funding is aimed at not only taking care of the increase in VA patients, but also aimed at reducing, for example, the time it takes for the VA to process a disability claim. In 2007, it took 183 days to process a claim. That figure dropped to 169 days in 2008 and the current budget aims to bring that down to 145 days. That’s still a long time to wait for veterans who may have no other way to earn money when they are disabled.

The Bush budget also cuts medical research by 10 percent for the VA and major construction projects budget is cut by 50 percent. Both are restored to some extent in the House and Senate budgets. ...

The national office of the Veterans of Foreign Wars says the Bush budget is a good start but “demands” Congress up the funding for construction projects and medical research. The research funding would go toward what VFW national president George Lisicki calls the “signature wounds of war.” That research would help the VA better treat traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, prosthetics and improve treatments for burns and blind rehabilitation. ...

The cost of the Bush tax cuts are significant when compared to the VA budget needs. One tenth of the revenue from removing just tax breaks to hedge fund managers would fund the increase in the VA that Congress is proposing.

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