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Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2009

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2009 -- (House of Representatives - July 31, 2008)

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Mr. ALTMIRE. I thank the gentleman. I could not be more proud of this bill that we are debating here today and that we are going to pass tonight.

Last year, we provided $12 billion in increased funding for the VA health care system, the largest single year increase in the 77-year history of the VA. Today, we follow up with a $4.6 billion funding increase, representing an 11 percent increase over that high bar that we set last year.

We are proving once again tonight in this Congress no group will stand ahead of our Nation's veterans when it comes time to make funding decisions.

The increased funding allows for enrollment of Priority 8 veterans. Priority 8 veterans have not been enrolled since 2003, as part of the Bush administration's cost-cutting efforts, and approximately 50 percent of all uninsured veterans today are Priority 8 veterans.

This bill will allow us to hire over 2,000 more claims processors to decrease that backlog that we have, which is now almost 400,000 cases, with 2,000 new claims processors.

In western Pennsylvania, where I'm from, there's a 6,000-case backlog. Those claims remain unanswered. So we are going to clear that up with this funding today.

In February, I testified before the House Budget Committee about the importance of increasing funding for our veterans' programs. I was pleased to vote on the floor of this House this year and last in favor of a budget resolution that met and exceeded the commitment that we have made to our Nation's veterans.

I urge all of my colleagues to support this bill. I congratulate Chairman Edwards on his work on this. It's a bipartisan bill. We are all on this together.

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