BUSH MUST KEEP PROMISE TO VETS
Sherman Signs Letter to White House Seeking $1.3 billion
Congressman Brad Sherman on Wednesday called on President Bush to fill a $1 billion funding gap in the budget for veterans' health care.
"Too many veterans already are waiting too long for the healthcare they were promised and deserve," Sherman said. "We must fix this problem and fix it now"
The looming shortfall emerged during a midyear budget review by the Veterans Affairs Department. The problem was acknowledged only grudgingly by a department official testifying one week ago at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.
In a letter to Bush, Sherman and other Democratic members of Congress said an additional $1.3 billion should be provided this year for veterans' health care programs. They also said the administration should make more realistic budgets in the future. "Funding for veterans' health care beyond 2007 is cut significantly below the amount needed merely to account for inflation," the congressmen said in the letter delivered to the White House.
The budget crunch occurs at a time when the nation's population of veterans grew by 300,000 this year because of recent troop buildups for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In addition, Sherman has separately sought additional funds for the Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center to purchase new medical equipment.
Amid the Veterans Affairs Department's mounting fiscal woes, a top official has launched a crackdown on VA hospitals and clinics that have not hung photographs of Secretary Jim Nicholson. According to a memorandum leaked to the press, the official ordered subordinates to "give this your highest priority."
"One thing ought to be clear," Sherman said. "The highest priority of the Veterans Affairs Department must be caring for veterans, not stroking the ego of a Bush cabinet secretary. The Department of Veterans Affairs has to get its priorities straight."