Baca Supports Funding Increase for Veterans' Care
Bill Expands Access, Strengthens Quality of Veterans' Health Care
Today Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) joined a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives to pass an 11% funding increase for veterans' care. The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2009, H.R. 6599, passed the House with a 409 - 4 vote. Today's legislation builds on last year's largest ever increase in funding in the 77-year history of the Veterans' Administration.
"With this addition in veterans' care funding, Congress is meeting our promises to honor American veterans with both our words and our deeds," said Rep. Baca. "After too many years of neglect in Washington at a time of war, the 110th Congress has fought to ensure that our veterans have the resources and benefits they have earned and improve facilities like the Veterans' Hospitals at Loma Linda and Los Angeles."
H.R. 6599 includes an 11% increase over last year's funding for veterans' care, and is $2.9 billion more that the President requested for FY 2009. The bipartisan measure expands access to and strengthens the quality of veterans health care for the 5.8 million patients of the VA, including 333,0000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Today's legislation:
* Increases enrollment in VA medical care for lower-income (Priority 8) veterans, who the Bush Administration had stopped enrolling right before the Iraq War;
* Strengthens mental health care for the growing number of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury by $3.8 billion;
* Provides veterans with advanced prosthetics - investing $116 million more than the President's budget - to help those who have lost limbs rebuild their lives;
* Bolsters maintenance at VA medical facilities to prevent future Walter Reed-like tragedies;
* Increases gas mileage reimbursement from 28.5 to 41.5 cents per mile for veterans traveling to get health care to help those in rural areas; and
* Expands access to fee-based care for veterans in areas where the VA does not offer services.
"As a veteran myself, I understand the sacrifices our brave service men and women have made to keep us safe. It is our duty to provide quality care and services to our veterans," concluded Rep. Baca. "On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. And with this national investment, we are fighting to ensure that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind."
H.R. 6599 is widely supported by America's leading veterans' organizations including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled Veterans of America, AmVets, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Rep. Baca is a veteran who served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper with both the 101st and the 82nd Airborne Divisions from 1966-68.