Obama Says $1 Billion Shortfall in VA Health Care Budget Requires Emergency Funding
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Barack Obama Tuesday told Veterans' Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson that the more than $1 billion shortfall in the VA health care budget requires emergency funding.
"I don't think anyone wants to look a returning soldier in the eye who fought and bled for our country and say 'Sorry, but when it comes to getting health care, you're on your own,'" said Obama. "We recently passed a budget where we had no problem finding billions and billions of dollars to give away in tax cuts, but when it comes to health care for veterans, the VA is forced to scrape for dollars by pilfering their rainy day funds."
In a letter to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) on April 5, 2005, VA Secretary Nicholson wrote, "I can assure you that VA does not need emergency supplemental funds in FY 2005 to continue to provide the timely, quality service that is always our goal." At today's hearing, Secretary Nicholson reiterated his belief that the $1 billion shortfall in the VA health care budget does not constitute a crisis.
Senator Obama told Secretary Nicholson that the $1 billion shortfall is a crisis for our nation's veterans, and that Congress should immediately provide the VA with the funding it needs to meet their health care needs.
"When we learn that the VA health care budget is more than $1 billion short, we shouldn't tell our veterans that there isn't a crisis, we should tell them that we will do what it takes to make sure that they get the health care services they earned" said Obama. "That is why I once again am joining my colleagues in an effort to provide the VA with the funding it needs to fully meet the health needs of our veterans. Senator Murray's emergency supplemental funding bill is necessary to avoid what is clearly an on-coming crisis in the VA health system."
On March 26, 2005, Senator Obama voted to add an additional $2.85 billion to the VA health care budget, but the amendment was defeated.
Senator Obama is a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.