Largest Increase in Veterans' Health Care History Enacted
Rep. Joe Baca (D-Rialto) hailed the President's release today of the $3.7 billion in additional veterans' funding provided by Congress - to provide the largest single funding increase in the 77-year history of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"With this historic veterans funding, this new Congress is meeting our promises to honor American veterans with both our words and our deeds," said Rep. Baca. "After years of neglect in Washington at a time of war, the 110th Congress will ensure that our veterans have the resources and benefits they have earned and improve facilities like the Veterans' Hospitals at Loma Linda and Los Angeles."
"Americans were shocked to learn last year of the crisis in care for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan," continued Rep. Baca. "The almost 30 million veterans living in the United States and the more than 2 million living in California deserve better - and this historic funding increase puts us on the right track. I am pleased the Bush Administration finally agreed to the critical need for the funding, after originally dismissing the $3.7 billion that the Democratic-led Congress added to the President's request for 2008."
With the release of today's funds, the 110th Congress has provided an extra $6.7 billion over last year for the largest single funding increase in the 77-year history of the Department of Veterans Affairs. These much needed funds will be used to:
- Strengthen quality health care for 5.8 million patients, including about 263,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, in the 5th year of the war in Iraq;
- Invest in much-needed maintenance for VA health care facilities and treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury for returning veterans;
- Reduce the backlog of veterans (400,000 claims) waiting for their earned benefits by adding 1,800 claims processors.
"As a veteran myself, I understand the sacrifices our brave service men and women have made to keep us safe. It is our duty to provide quality care and services to our veterans," concluded Rep. Baca. "On the battlefield, the military pledges to leave no soldier behind. And with this national investment, we will begin to fulfill our pledge that when they return home, we leave no veteran behind."
Most veterans receiving VA health care are struggling to get into the middle class, with a median annual income of $23,000. This increase won widespread support and praise from America's leading veterans' organizations including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Officers Association of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, AmVets, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, National Association for Uniformed Services and Disabled American Veterans.
Rep. Baca is a veteran who served in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper with both the 101st and the 82nd Airborne Divisions from 1966-68.