Salazar, House Dems Call for Vets Care to be Included in Iraq Supplemental
"Providing for Veterans Is Continuing Cost of War"
WASHINGTON, DC - Led by Congressman John Salazar (CO-3), the newest Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, House Democrats today moved to prevent a repeat of last year's shameful shortfall in funding for the Department of Veterans' Affairs. In a letter sent to Speaker Hastert this morning, more than 120 House Democrats called for the inclusion of $630 million in veterans' health care funds as part of the President's $72.4 billion Iraq War Supplemental request:
"We believe that providing for our military veterans and their families is a continuing cost of war and an important component of our national defense. We are concerned that the Administration may have once again underestimated the total number of veterans that will seek services at the VA, including new veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Mr. Speaker, we strongly urge you to correct the Administration's oversight and recognize that caring for our veterans is an ongoing cost of war."
Said Salazar: "With the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we've created a whole new generation of veterans who need our care. We cannot have a repeat of last year's shameful budget shortfall. It is time for us to be honest in our budgeting and recognize the urgency of providing full funding for veterans health care. Our troops bravely put their lives on the line and it is our moral duty to provide them with the care and benefits they were promised."
The complete text of the letter and the full list of signatories follows:
Honorable Dennis Hastert
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. Speaker:
We believe that providing for our military veterans and their families is a continuing cost of war and an important component of our national defense. We simply have no excuse for not meeting their needs. For some, it easy to forget that budgets and numbers ultimately reflect our priorities and affect real people. Indeed, by failing to include any money for veterans' health care and readjustment services in the $72.4 billion emergency war supplemental request, the Administration again has failed to acknowledge the added stress and resource demands the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are placing on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Accordingly, we respectfully request that you work with the Appropriations Committee to provide additional resources for the VA within the emergency war supplemental.
We believe that at least $630 million is urgently needed to care for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the heroes from prior conflicts who rely upon the VA for their health care. Specifically, we are seeking $250 million to support increased demand for mental health services for returning troops; $200 million for direct medical services, including treating traumatic brain injury and other complex blast injuries, and additional resources for the VA's Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers; $110 million for increased demand for VA prosthetics; $15 million for medical and vocational rehabilitation services; and $55 million for increased staff to process the growing disability claims backlog of more than 370,000, including claims homeless disabled veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are waiting months for decisions.
Mr. Speaker, last year, we saw the VA face disgraceful shortfalls in its health care budget, shortfalls that had a direct impact upon the care received by veterans. Ultimately, the Administration begrudgingly admitted these shortfalls and was forced to request additional resources. We are concerned that the Administration may have once again underestimated the total number of veterans that will seek services at the VA, including new veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Mr. Speaker, we strongly urge you to correct the Administration's oversight and recognize that caring for our veterans is an ongoing cost of war.
Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Eleanor Holmes Norton
William Lacy Clay
cc: Honorable Jerry Lewis, Chairman, House Committee on Appropriations