CONCURRENT RESOLUTION ON THE BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006 -- (House of Representatives - March 17, 2005)
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Mr. BRADLEY of New Hampshire. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me time.
Mr. Chairman, this budget values the service of our veterans. It not only values their service, but it meets the needs of our country, a strong defense, a growing economy, while we also reduce our deficit. I would like to talk about where veterans spending has gone over the last 10 years for just a moment.
As you can see from this chart, this is the overall spending on veterans programs over that period of time, from 1995 to 2005. We talk about veterans health care, perhaps we could bring that chart up, that has increased from about $16.2 billion to $29.9 billion. That is substantial progress in honoring the commitment of our Nation's veterans.
We have done a number of other things for veterans over the last several years, and perhaps if I could have the last chart. We have allowed Guard and Reservists to qualify for medical benefits; we have increased the GI education benefit over those years; we have opened up the VA system for all veterans to participate in and have funded it enough so that at least Priorities 1 through 7 are able to participate in that; and we have gone from 2.5 million veterans served under the VA to 4.8 million.
We have increased survivor benefits. We finally dealt with the whole issue of concurrent receipts, so that a disabled veteran is able to collect either his or her disability benefit, as well as their retirement benefit. We have reduced the wait times to get into the VA hospitals, and the VA has maintained its excellent care.
Let me talk about this budget, because under the leadership of the gentleman from Iowa (Chairman Nussle), we started at the President's mark, which was about $30.8 billion for veterans health care, and the chairman's mark increased that to $31.5 billion. Working with the chairman, I introduced an amendment that raised that by $229 million. So as a result of the hard work of the veterans and the Committee on the Budget, we have increased from the President's baseline by $877 million, which in these difficult fiscal times is a 2.8 percent increase.
Further under the leadership of the chairman, we have reduced the reconciliation number to a number I believe is very manageable. If you recall, the President assumed copayments on drugs and an enrollment fee. But the chairman's mark, because it is so much lower, going from $424 million to $155 million, I believe working together in the Committee on Veterans' Affairs with the Committee on the Budget that we can in fact look for waste, fraud, and abuse and eliminate those types of things, without having to have an enrollment fee, without having to have drug copayments. Let me repeat that. The chairman's budget does not assume either enrollment fees or those drug copayment fees.
I look forward to working to make sure that we honor our commitment to our Nation's veterans. This is an excellent budget. It maintains a strong defense; it allows our economy to grow; and it meets critical needs for those who have defended our liberties, our Nation's veterans.
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