MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (House of Representatives - June 15, 2007)
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Mr. HARE. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of H.R. 2642, the Fiscal Year 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act.
I am honored to stand here today as a freshman member of this Democratic Congress as we approve ``the largest'' funding increase in the 77-year history of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
It is my hope that providing $6.7 billion above last year's funding will only be the beginning of our commitment to the promises made to our service men and women.
All of us were outraged by the reports of what happened at Walter Reed. Part of the problem is for years the VA has been shortchanged on funding, due to understating its budgeting needs instead of proactively planning for the needs of our veterans.
This underfunding has resulted in budget shortfalls, understaffing of vets centers, a huge claims backlog, and inexcusable delays at VA facilities.
This bill represents a change in priorities.
It funds an additional 1,100 claims' processors to address the 600,000 backlog.
It provides $4.4 billion above 2007 levels for the Veterans Health Administration. This will help the VA treat the more than 5.8 million patients they expect in 2008.
Additionally, the bill increases funding for the VA's repair and maintenance accounts to prevent a VA medical facility from falling into unacceptable levels of disrepair.
I commend my colleagues on the VA Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee for bringing to the floor a bill that exceeds the recommendations of the veterans' service organizations of the Independent Budget.
We've seen a change in priorities and I am going to continue to support this momentum until all veterans who want access to healthcare in the VA system, have it. I urge all my colleagues to pass this bill that funds critical benefits for our veterans.
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