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Issue Position: Veterans

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Smith: Veterans' Needs Should Be First in the Queue for Federal Funds

I have always believed--and fought in Congress to ensure--that the needs of those who have served and sacrificed for our nation must come first in the queue for federal funding.

During my 24 years as a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and my tenure as chairman from 2000 to 2005, I authored 13 comprehensive laws to expand veterans programs and benefits in the areas of health care, housing, widows' benefits, post-service employment and assistance to homeless veterans.

Among the benefits established by my laws are more modern and stronger financial and legal protections for our soldiers currently serving abroad (The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, P.L. 108-189) and a 60% increase in funding for college benefits and a substantial boost in homes loans for veterans (Veterans Education and Benefits Expansion Act of 2001, P.L. 107-103).

During my tenure as Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, I worked to increase VA health care funding by 42%, authored laws to improve VA health care--including one to reduce the out-of-pocket cost of health care for low income veterans by 80%.

To help ensure veterans in New Jersey receive quality and timely medical care at VA clinics, I have worked over the years to help establish and improve services at VA outpatient clinics in Brick, Trenton and Fort Monmouth as well as bring added medical personnel to the clinic in Burlington County.

However, as the controversy over problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center has shown, the federal government is still not providing the necessary resources to provide essential medical care to our servicemembers or our veterans.

To correct this inequity, I have introduced the Veterans Health Care Full Funding Act (H.R. 1041) to reform the funding mechanisms for VA health care. My bill will ensure mandatory and predictable funding for VA health care by changing the process, letting the actuaries and health care professionals at VA -- not the Office of Management and Budget -- tell us what is needed in terms of VA medical funding.


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