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Public Statements

More Funding Necessary For Veterans Medical Research Program

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, Dc


More Funding Necessary For Veterans Medical Research Program -- 62 Senators sign on to bipartisan letter for veterans FY07 appropriations

April 26, 2006

Washington, DC - Today Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Chairman and Ranking member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, sent a letter to its appropriations subcommittee urging an increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs' Medical and Prosthetic Research Program.

Tomorrow the Veterans' Committee will hold a hearing to shed more light on VA research breakthroughs and development needs.

The President's budget for 2007 proposed decreasing VA research by $13 million. The senators' letter supports increasing the VA budget by $20 million over last year's level - a 5 percent increase.

The letter states: "The proposed level of direct funds does not keep pace with inflation and will compel VA to cut numerous projects. Therefore, we support a FY07 funding level of $432 million, in order to cover inflation, sustain current VA research and development commitments, and allow critical new research initiatives to move forward."

Craig and Akaka joined forces in hopes to sustain VA research programs which are instrumental in developing innovative and effective methods of treatment. Modern warfare has unfortunately resulted in many wounded servicemembers who stand to benefit from enhanced VA research in the areas of prosthetic limbs, rehabilitation, and traumatic brain and spinal injuries.

The letter was addressed to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Chairperson Kay Bailey Hutchison and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein.

Here is the text of the letter:

April 26, 2006
The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison, Chairman
The Honorable Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Hutchison and Ranking Member Feinstein:

We strongly urge the Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs to demonstrate this nation's commitment to its veterans by providing a much-needed increase in the Fiscal Year 2007 appropriation for the Department of Veterans Affairs' Medical and Prosthetics Research Program.

The Administration's proposed FY07 budget for the direct costs of VA research is $399 million, a $13 million cut from the current year's level of $412 million. The proposed level of direct funds does not keep pace with inflation and will compel VA to cut numerous projects.

Therefore, we support a FY07 funding level of $432 million, in order to cover inflation, sustain current VA research and development commitments, and allow critical new research initiatives to move forward.

If enacted, the proposed cuts to the VA research budget will result in the loss of 96 research projects in valuable areas such as diabetes, cancer, aging, heart disease, and 286 full-time employees (FTE) are projected to lose their jobs. Further, given that participation in VA's top-notch research program is a major factor in recruiting physicians to VA, the research program must be provided the necessary funds to attract and retain quality clinical staff.

Another point to take into account is that the nature of modern warfare and battlefield medicine has resulted in servicemembers coming home with wounds that would have been fatal in previous wars. Many wounded servicemen and women are in need of prosthetic limbs, extensive physical therapy, or have endured traumatic brain injuries. With thousands of military personnel engaged in service overseas, it is vital that Congress invest in research that could have a direct impact on their post-deployment quality of life.

VA research programs have been instrumental in developing innovative and effective methods of treatment since World War II, making landmark contributions to the welfare of veterans and the entirety of the nation. Past VA research projects have resulted in the first successful liver transplant performed in the U.S., development of the cardiac pacemaker, and pioneering the concepts that led to the CT scan. VA research also has played a vital role in treating tuberculosis, rehabilitating blind veterans, and more recently, in launching the largest-ever clinical trial of psychotherapy to treat PTSD. For the last 60 years, VA research has been extremely competitive with its private sector counterparts.

Today, VA's research program continues to remain appropriately focused. In 2004, VA research took on leadership of a $60 million nationwide study - funded by the National Institute on Aging and other partners - to identify brain changes linked with Alzheimer's disease. VA research, in partnership with Brown University and MIT, established a major center of excellence to develop state-of-the-art prosthetics for veteran amputees. In June 2005, U.S. News & World Report called VA hospital care "the best around." The important role VA research played in this transformation of the VA medical care system cannot go overlooked; its innovations improved the overall quality and delivery of VA health care for years to come.

Keeping this distinguished record of success in mind, we ask you to further support VA research by ensuring that an appropriate level of funding continues for this program. These funds must be at a level that accounts for inflation, new and daunting challenges, and most importantly, enables VA to remain an attractive option to our best and brightest in medicine. Adequately funding VA's Medical and Prosthetics Research Program is vital to maintaining our commitment to veterans.

Sincerely,

In order of signing:

1. Larry E. Craig
2. Daniel K. Akaka
3. Ken Salazar
4. Tim Johnson
5. John D. Rockefeller
6. Edward M. Kennedy
7. Conrad Burns
8. James M. Jeffords
9. Arlen Specter
10. Patrick J. Leahy
11. Patty Murray
12. Carl Levin
13. Frank R. Lautenberg
14. Max Baucus
15. Jeff Bingaman
16. Barack Obama
17. John Ensign
18. Debbie Stabenow
19. Hillary Rodham Clinton
20. Mike DeWine
21. Barbara A. Mikulski
22. George Allen
23. Kent Conrad
24. Daniel K. Inouye
25. Byron L. Dorgan
26. Christopher S. Bond
27. Barbara Boxer
28. Paul S. Sarbanes
29. Mark L. Pryor
30. Christopher J. Dodd
31. Rick Santorum
32. Herb Kohl
33. Richard Durbin
34. Olympia Snowe
35. John F. Kerry
36. Johnny Isakson
37. Pat Roberts
38. Norm Coleman
39. Bill Nelson
40. Lindsey Graham
41. Robert Menendez
42. Trent Lott
43. Chuck Hagel
44. Mark Dayton
45. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
46. James M. Talent
47. Maria Cantwell
48. Mary L. Landrieu
49. Charles E. Schumer
50. Thomas R. Carper
51. Joseph I. Lieberman
52. Blanche L. Lincoln
53. Russell D. Feingold
54. Mike Crapo
55. John Thune
56. Ron Wyden
57. Elizabeth Dole
58. Richard Burr
59. Tom Harkin
60. Jack Reed
61. Lisa Murkowski
62. Benjamin Nelson

http://veterans.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Newsroom.PressReleases&id=590

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