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U.S. Rep. Salazar: "VA Shortfall Shameful, Unacceptable"

Location: Washington, DC

Sudden Shortfall Proves Need for Mandatory Funding for Veteran's Affairs Department

With the U.S. House of Representatives set to consider a supplemental appropriation for the Veteran's Affairs Department today, Congressman John T. Salazar (CO-3) questioned why an emergency was required for this Administration to recognize the health care needs of our nation's heroes.

"A billion dollar shortfall that shortchanges our nation's heroes is shameful and unacceptable," said Salazar. "The Third CD has buried five soldiers since January. How do you tell their families an accounting error will prevent them from getting promised benefits? How do you tell troops who volunteered to fight for our freedoms that the country they fought for won't take care of them when they come back? In the time of war our troops and their families are supposed to be our number one priority."

Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Jim Nicholson told Congress earlier this week that a budget model failed to predict the surge in demand for VA health care. Approximately 103,000 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have applied for VA health care, far more than the 23,000 the VA had been expecting. Nicholson also said that three-quarters of the shortfall came from increased demand by older veterans of previous wars.

"It shouldn't take an emergency for this Administration to deal with the health care needs of our nation's heroes," said Salazar. "Funding the VA and our bringing our troops home safely should never be treated as an afterthought."

The U.S. House of Representatives today plans to consider an emergency supplemental appropriation to make up for a recently announced $1 billion budget shortfall for the VA. Yesterday, Salazar joined every House Democrat in sending a letter to the President, demanding he immediately seek funding for the VA.

"This wouldn't be a problem if funding for the VA was mandatory," said Salazar. "Every single veteran or VA official I meet with tells me their number one concern is lack of funding for veteran's health care. Finding affordable health care is so difficult, it's no surprise that more and more veterans are turning to the VA. With mandatory funding, the health and well being of our veterans and troops wouldn't depend on partisan budget fights."

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