MILITARY QUALITY OF LIFE AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - May 26, 2005)
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Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill and would like to commend the gentleman from New York--Mr. WALSH--and the gentleman from Texas Mr. EDWARDS--(and their very able staff) for their good work on this legislation.
Mr. Chairman, many of us will spend this weekend doing exactly what we should be doing--returning home to our communities to pay solemn tribute to those brave men and women who have paid the ultimate price in service of our Nation.
We are painfully mindful that we are a Nation at war. Our young fighting men and women are in action around the world, serving with distinction and dedication. To honor them, we should pass this legislation which provides important assistance to our American heroes--past and present--our veterans and our current warfighters.
This legislation: Significantly increases funding devoted to military housing and health care. Increases total funding for the VA by 3.5 percent; Boosts Veterans Medical Services $1 billion above the budget request and $1.64 billion over last year's levels: (Over the last 2 years, funding for Veterans medical care has increased by 18 percent.)
Appropriates $20 billion for the Defense Health Program--a 9.9 percent increase over fiscal 2005. Proposes a 10-percent increase in the basic allowance for military housing; Hikes total military construction 4.2 increase above last year's levels.
Mr. Chairman, our troops--active, reserve and Guard--are enduring extraordinary mental and physical stress during long tours of duty battling an insurgency engaged in intense guerilla warfare. Clearly, these troops will have special needs, including mental health needs, when they rotate from the combat zone. I am proud that this bill goes to extraordinary lengths to fund treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and doubles funding for mental health research.
We know from experience that the mental health and physical health of our troops are closely linked, and mental health disorders can exacerbate or even induce physical disorders. Returning service men and women need to be treated for both through integrated physical and mental health care and this bill recognizes that fact on many important levels.
Mr. Chairman, I would also like to point out what is NOT in this bill, namely higher copays at veterans health care facilities and new annual surcharges for certain categories of veterans.
Mr. Chairman, we are a Nation at war. And our young fighting men and women have real needs. Our veterans have real needs.
I want to thank the Appropriations Committee for providing for those needs and urge support for the bill.
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