CONGRESSMAN SALAZAR DEMANDS EMERGENCY FUNDS FOR VETERANS HEALTH CARE
Salazar Presses President to Submit Funding Request to Congress
In the wake of last week's startling announcement that the Veteran's Administration is short $1 billion for this year, Congressman John T. Salazar (CO-3) joined every House Democrat and one Independent in demanding that President Bush seek emergency funds to cover the health care needs of current veterans and returning troops.
"I was disappointed last night when the President failed to give us a plan for taking care of our veterans and military families," said Salazar. "The Third CD has buried five soldiers since January - what can you say to their families? That an accounting error will prevent them from getting the benefits they were promised?"
Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson told Congress yesterday that a budget model failed to predict the surge in demand for VA health care. Approximately 103,000 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have applied for VA health care, far more than the 23,000 the VA had been expecting. Nicholson also said that three-quarters of the shortfall came from increased demand by older veterans of previous wars.
"The President has the opportunity to do something concrete," said Salazar. "I ask him to make good on our nation's promise and provide our troops and vets with the resources they need. That's real action, not just rhetoric."
The following is the full text of House Democrats' letter to President Bush:
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to request that you submit a FY 2005 supplemental funding request adding at least $1.3 billion to address the shortfall in veterans' health care funding that your Administration has identified. This additional funding is urgently needed today to care for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the heroes from former conflicts who rely upon the VA for their health care. In addition, we request that you submit an amended FY 2006 budget to account for the veterans' health care shortfall that is now evident in your Administration's 2006 budget request.
In our estimation, your FY 2005 VA budget request was short $2.5 billion. While Congress added $1.2 billion, your budget remained $1.3 billion short. It appears the VA now agrees with our original estimate.
The 2006 budget request was similarly short. What is even more troubling is that funding for veterans' health care beyond 2007 is cut significantly below the amount needed merely to account for inflation. In the future, we urge you to submit veterans' budgets that more accurately reflect the resource requirements of the Department of Veterans Affairs and the health care needs of current veterans and the many thousands returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. At a time of war, funding for veterans must be made a clear and unmistakable priority.
We await the submission of your FY 2005 supplemental funding request and amended FY 2006 budget.
All House Democrats and 1 Independent