Bill "demonstrates our continued commitment to the men and women who have served our nation"
Washington, D.C. (Thursday, September 25, 2008)---U.S. Representative Tom Allen, a senior member of the House Budget Committee, today praised House passage yesterday of increased funding for America's veterans as part the Fiscal Year 2009 appropriations bill for Military Construction and Veterans. The bill appropriates $47.6 billion for programs under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), $4.5 billion above 2008 and $2.8 billion over the President's request, for veterans' medical care, claims processors, and facility improvements. It includes $41 billion, $1.8 billion over the President's request and $4.1 billion above 2008, for veterans' medical care.
"The House continues to build on the historic increases we have made over the past two years in benefits for our veterans," Representative Allen said. "Last year, Congress passed the largest funding increase for benefits and services in the VA's 77 year history. Coupled with the new GI Bill of Rights enacted earlier this year, the additional funding in the bill passed yesterday further demonstrates our continued commitment to the men and women who have served our nation and fought to protect our security and our freedom."
Representative Allen noted provisions in the bill that are important to Maine veterans, including $250 million for a new rural health initiative to improve access to medical services for veterans living in rural areas and increased funding to raise the gas mileage reimbursement rate from 28.5 cents to 41.5 cents per mile for veterans traveling distances for care.
"I am also especially pleased that the bill dedicates a minimum of $3.8 billion, $900 million more than 2008, to specialty mental health services for veterans with mental illness, PTSD, and for suicide prevention," Representative Allen said. "Researchers have found that nearly two-thirds of Iraq veterans who screened positive for PTSD and other psychiatric disorders are not receiving treatment. While this additional funding is an important component, we must also do more to improve diagnosis, compensation, and treatment for veterans with PTSD. I will continue to fight for passage of legislation I introduced earlier this year, the Full Faith in Veterans Act. Under law, too many veterans are ineligible to receive compensation for disability because of incomplete military records. My bill provides a common sense approach that allows for the diagnosis by a mental health care professional that a veteran's PTSD is service-connected to be enough to qualify that veteran for benefits."