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Rep. Andrews Fights for Just Funding for South Jersey Veterans: Opposes President's Proposed VA Budget

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Recently, I met with the Jewish War Veterans to address their concerns about President Bush's proposed budget for the Veterans Administration and the adverse affects it could have on South Jersey Veterans. The United States should always support our nation's servicemen and women while on duty protecting our great country. With great gratitude, the United States should also provide our nation's veterans with the necessary healthcare and services upon completion of their military service. In order to obtain the level of healthcare needed to care for South Jersey veterans, I have contacted the House Appropriations Committee to request additional funding for the VA for Fiscal Year 2006.

I am opposed to the President's Veteran's Administration budget proposal for fiscal year 2006 because it fails to adequately fund the Veteran's Administration and essentially places a financial burden on our veterans to make up the difference for requisite health care and services. Under the President's plan, the VA's budget is severely weakened because it is at least $1.5 billion short in discretionary funding to keep the VA afloat. Although the President's proposal funds veterans' medical programs at $28.2 billion, it is only slightly over $100 million more than the Fiscal Year 2005 enacted level or less than a one percent increase. As the Veterans Affairs Administration is already struggling to make ends meet, this proposal would impose a new enrollment fee and increase prescription drug co-payments for some veterans from $7 to $15. I reject any increase in veterans' co-payments and any healthcare enrollment fee for South Jersey's Veterans.

Additionally, the Administration neglects to provide an increase in funding to treat veterans with mental health issues, such as, PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because a significant number of troops returning home are demonstrating the need for post-deployment mental health intervention, I support increased funding in this area. As our troops return home from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, it is crucial that we provide them with the mental and physical rehabilitation necessary to treat their injuries and the injuries which may last a lifetime.

Never has it been more apparent that South Jersey Veterans continue to require medical and physical care as a result of their service to our country. That is why since 1999, I have worked with the Veteran's Administration to fight for a fulltime VA clinic here in South Jersey to service the needs of our veterans. I am pleased that on March 4, the part time VA Clinic in Washington Township made the transition to a fulltime operational clinic which is now open Monday through Friday for the registered veterans who have enrolled in the VA health care system. Because of this clinic, our South Jersey veterans do not have to travel to Philadelphia or Delaware to receive health care services.

I remain committed to ensuring that the necessary funds are made available for South Jersey veterans so they can receive the best care in addressing their service related needs. To honor our country's obligations to our veterans, it is imperative that the Appropriations Committee answer the call for additional funding for the Veteran's Administration.

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