Stabenow: Congress Must Move Forward with Budget Proposals that Offer Full Benefits to Veterans
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), supported by a large group of her Senate colleagues, has asked the Senate Budget Committee to reject the president's request to double the cost of prescription drug co-payments and the imposition of an annual enrollment fee for middle income veterans.
In a joint letter to committee leaders today, the senators termed the president's fiscal year 2006 budget proposals "harmful to America's veterans" and "unacceptable," and they urged that the president's proposals be rejected.
"The president's budget increases the prescription drug co-payment from $7 to $15 and imposes an annual $250 enrollment fee for middle-income veterans," the senators wrote. They noted in particular that most of the president's proposed increase in veterans' health for the coming year was based primarily on those user fees. "It is unacceptable to place the burden of needed increases for veteran's health care on the shoulders of America's veterans themselves," Stabenow said.
"The president's budget request for veteran's health care is unacceptable, and does not even meet inflation," the senators wrote. "We urge you to reject the president's proposal to increase health care costs for veterans, and provide the men and women who have served our country with the health care they have earned and deserve."
Stabenow said today that Congress and the president need to do much more than simply pay lip-service to support for veterans.
"We have a responsibility to ensure that the VA health care system receives full funding - without relying on increased out-of-pocket fees to veterans," Stabenow said. "We owe this to the men and women who have served our nation in the past - and to the service members who will be returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The brave men and women who have served our country made a commitment to us, to our country, and a promise was made to them," she said. "Breaking that promise to our veterans is a wrong priority and a wrong value."
In the past, Stabenow has strongly favored the "Independent Budget," developed by a coalition of the nation's major veterans' organizations. Following that budget guideline, Stabenow and other members of Congress last year added $1.2 billion in veterans' health care funding to the president's proposal.
Stabenow said that the legislative effort to ensure that veterans receive the health care they need will again be a bipartisan effort.