Walden Urges Fast Resolution on Vets Funding Bill
Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) joined 43 of his House colleagues to urge Speaker Nancy Pelosi to work quickly to reach a conference agreement with the Senate to pass bipartisan legislation to provide critical funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
On June 15, the House passed the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agency Appropriations Act (H.R. 2642), which funds the VA for FY 2008, by a vote of 409-2. The Senate passed their version of the bill on Sept. 7.
"Few issues are more important than adequate funding for our nation's veterans," Congressman Walden said in a letter sent to Speaker Pelosi and co-signed by 43 other members of the House (letter attached). "As members of Congress, we have a solemn obligation to fulfill our promises to them. We ask for you to look past the heightened partisanship of our times and unite us on this issue by making it a first priority to quickly bring a stand alone Veterans appropriations bill through congerence so the Congress may present the President with a bill by October 1, 2007."
Recent revelations of substandard conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, coupled with the increase in veterans accessing VA facilities and benefits further illustrates the need for Congress to live up to the promises made to America's service members and veterans to provide critical funding for military construction projects and vital veterans programs.
The House version of the bill increased VA funding by $6 billion over the previous year, one of the largest increases in the history of the VA. Other key provisions of the House bill include:
Access to quality health care: Commits $37.1 billion $2.5 billion over the 2007 amount for the Veterans Health Administration. Also dedicates $4.1 billion to improve medical services for all veterans, including funds to renovate existing facilities and construct new facilities like the planned community-based outpatient clinic in La Grande.
Fairer reimbursement for travel to and from VA hospitals in rural areas: Doubles the reimbursement rate for veterans traveling to and from appointments for medical care.
Funding for mental health programs: Provides over $600 million for a new initiative to address mental health and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Addressing the significant backlog of VA disability claims: Commits $1.6 billion to enable the Department to hire roughly 1,100 additional claims processors to work-down the backlog of benefits claims and to reduce the time to process new claims.