VETERANS' COMPENSATION COST-OF-LIVING ADJUSTMENT ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 13, 2005)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me this time and for her leadership on veterans' issues.
I too rise in support of H.R. 1220, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act, and I would just like to speak briefly about two provisions in it.
This bill will, in December, provide a cost-of-living adjustment to the disability compensation received by our Nation's veterans, and to compensation received by their widows. A transitional benefit to widows with minor children, who will receive an extra $250 per month for 2 years, is specifically included in this cost-of-living increase.
The compensation that veterans and their widows receive does not adequately compensate them for their losses, but we hope it will ease their burden and let them know our Nation is grateful. It is important this compensation keep abreast of the rising cost of living.
Another provision of the bill establishes, subject to appropriations, a Parkinson's Disease Research Educational and Clinical Center in six VA health care facilities, with appropriate geographical distribution of these centers. These centers would cooperate with an accredited medical school, one that provides education and training in neurology and attracts the participation of scientists who are capable of ingenuity and creativity in their research efforts.
The centers would provide the opportunity for VA clinicians to more fully understand Parkinson's Disease and collaborate on innovative treatments. The findings would be shared with facilities without research centers in order to ensure access to state-of-the-art information through our VA health care system. I am especially supportive of the provision which would advance our knowledge of Parkinson's Disease and would provide new treatments to those who are suffering.
So let us support H.R. 1220, but let us not get too self-congratulatory about this bill. It is a necessary bill. It is already provided for in the appropriations process, but the amount of money we are talking about in this bill is very, very small compared to the shortfall in the health care budget of the VA that we have been informed about by our new Secretary of VA.
Mr. Speaker, we are being irresponsible by not approving an adequate health care budget for our veterans. While today we approve the Disability Compensation COLA, we are still leaving our veterans health care short by billions of dollars, both in this year's and next year's budget.
And for those who say, well, we did not know about it, or it was a bad mathematical model that was used, these are rather ridiculous statements. The Independent Budget, which has been formulated by our veterans' service organizations in a very professional, a very detailed way, forecast the exact amount that we would need in the health care budget. While the chairman of our committee is going around searching for a right number, the number was right here in the independent budget.
And, in fact, Mr. Speaker, the Democrats in this House tried to get this budget number into our budget. But were we allowed to? No, we were not allowed to vote on it in our committee. We were not allowed to vote on it on the floor. There were attempts to do that by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Edwards) and the gentlewoman from Oregon (Ms. Hooley). I had an amendment on the floor to put the required money in the budget that we were lacking for our veterans, and I was ruled out of order. Out of order to help our veterans? I will tell you what was out of order, and that was the process that the majority party set up.
Mr. Speaker, I have a thousand veterans in San Diego, California, who are on a waiting list to get into the VA health system. Does that sound like we were adequately funding our health care? We will have thousands of returning Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, many with PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, who will not be able to get the required counseling at our VA centers. They will have to wait a year for a dental appointment. Is this supporting our troops? Is this showing how much we care about them?
Mr. Speaker, the way to show that we support our troops is to treat them well when they return home. We already have unsettling reports of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. We have reports of veterans who suffer from PTSD probably, who are committing domestic violence, who have not gotten help from the VA and who may be on the streets already. We know what happens to the troops when they do not get the proper help. Half of the homeless on the streets today are Vietnam vets.
That is a tragedy, that is a disgrace, and an incredible immoral act that we have allowed this country to commit, to put our veterans on the streets. But the same thing is going to happen again. The same thing is going to happen again if we do not adequately fund this budget.
This House voted a week ago to put $900 million into this year's budget. The Senate appropriated 1.5 billion. And the Veteran's Committee chairman said, oh, I do not know how they got their number. Well, that is the right number. We should vote for the Senate number. We can get this passed for veterans immediately, and then we can fix the 2006 budget in our regular appropriations process.
Mr. Speaker, when the President says support our troops, support our troops, support our troops, and then does not provide the adequate funding when those troops come home, we are not doing the job that we should be doing to thank the veterans for their service. It is time to adequately fund the health care budget. It is time to listen to the Independent Budget. It is time for the chairman to listen to those who have been saying this for years. It is time to show proper respect for the veterans who have given us our freedom today.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT