Thousands of young men and women in uniform current are putting their lives on the line in service to our country in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet the Bush Administration is systematically underfunding key programs for these new veterans as well as the large number of World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam era veterans who are already eligible for services.
Ed Markey believes that the VA was created to serve all veterans, not just those veterans it can "afford" to serve. All veterans, regardless of income, have earned the right to high-quality health care services.
Ed Markey successfully opposed the CARES Commission's recommendation to eliminate all inpatient services at the Bedford VA Hospital. Congressman Markey spoke out to keep the facility open. On Veteran's Day 2003, Congressman Markey convened a rally at the VA Hospital asking the VA to keep all 500 beds at the Bedford VA, which is the only VA residential Alzheimer's unit. Ed Markey also delivered 13,000 signatures of citizens throughout Massachusetts demanding that the Secretary keep the Bedford VA open. Finally in 2004, the CARES Commission reversed its original proposal and decided to keep all inpatient veterans services intact and at the Bedford VA.
In order to carry through on our nation's commitments to those who have served in our nation's armed forces, Ed believes that funding for the VA needs to be significantly increased. At the same time, the right of veterans to receive health care needs to be more firmly established in law.
The President's budget request for programs run by the Department of Veterans Affairs has been inadequate to meet veteran's health needs in each of the last four years. Earlier this year, VA Secretary Anthony J. Principi stated he had requested $1.2 billion more from the President than was included in the fiscal year 2005 VA budget request. The Nation's major veterans service organizations believe the budget is billions short of addressing VA needs.
Ed Markey has opposed the President's proposed inadequate level of VA funding, as well as the President's attempts to increase veterans' copayments and to impose a new enrollment fee.
Ed voted against the budget resolution approving a lower level of funding for veterans' programs than was recommended by the House Veterans Affairs Committee and by veterans' service organizations. Ed also voted for an amendment offered by Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) to add $1.5 billion to VA medical programs during the appropriations process.
Ed has cosponsored legislation, H.R. 2318, which would create an adequate and predictable funding stream for veterans' health care by basing funding on the number of veterans enrolled for services and medical inflation for hospital-related services.
Ed has also cosponsored legislation HR 5455, to protect veterans from identity theft after the VA admitted the loss of personal information of thousands of veterans. The bill would require the VA to notify veterans with compromised information and provide them with credit reports to ensure identity theft protection.
With many soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan, Ed remains concerned about the high incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which prevents veterans from fully integrating back to civilian life. He has cosponsored legislation to emphasize the need for additional mental health professionals to assist returning veterans.
Ed has will continue to fight for full elimination of the Disabled Veterans Tax, which forces most military retirees who have a disability incurred in military service to forfeit their military retirement benefits from the Department of Defense in order to receive disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).