Veterans Groups United in Call for Full Funding of VA Health Care
WASHINGTON – Representing more than 7 million military veterans, The American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars today reaffirmed their unanimous support for fully funding the veterans health care system. The organizations are members of the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform.
The three largest veterans organizations firmly believe that veterans have earned the right to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care through their extraordinary sacrifices and service to this nation. Yet, each year funding levels must be determined through an annual appropriations process that is fundamentally broken. Year after year, veterans have fought for sufficient funding for VA health care and a realistic budget that reflects the rising cost of health care and increasing need for medical services. Despite these continued efforts, the cumulative effects of insufficient health care funding have resulted in the rationing of medical care.
“The nation’s highest priority is national defense. VA health care is an ongoing cost of war. Every veteran answered the nation’s call to arms without reservation. As wartime veterans, Legionnaires understand the importance of the VA health care system. Short-changing VA health care is short-changing every military veteran from Bunker Hill to Baghdad. America’s veterans are not expendable and should never be treated as such,” said American Legion National Commander Thomas P. Cadmus.
“Especially during this time of war, fully providing for the needs of this nation’s past, present and future defenders is more than a mere contract between this government and its people, it is a moral obligation. No veteran must ever be denied VA health care or benefits for want of federal funding,” said VFW Commander-in-Chief John Furgess.
“What’s needed is a mechanism that will guarantee adequate annual budgets to meet the health care needs of America’s sick and disabled veterans, a move supported by all the major veterans organizations,” said DAV National Commander James E. Sursely. “We must eliminate the year-to-year uncertainty about funding levels that has prevented the VA from being able to adequately plan for and meet the constantly growing needs of veterans seeking treatment.”
Millions of veterans have made the VA their first choice for health care because of the quality of the care they receive. And for many others, the VA is their only health care lifeline.
For the third year in a row, the veterans health care system has had to struggle along for months at the previous year’s inadequate funding level because Congress has failed to deliver a timely appropriations bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs. As a result, our nation’s veterans have been denied timely access to necessary VA health care. And the outlook isn’t any better for the thousands-and potentially tens of thousands-of our men and women when they return from Afghanistan, Iraq and the global war on terror, when you consider that they will need care from the VA for decades to come.
This national crisis is well documented by, among others, the President’s Task Force to Improve Health Care Delivery for Our Nation’s Veterans. In its final report released in May 2003, the task force identified a significant mismatch between demand for VA services and available funding which, if left unresolved, would delay veterans’ access to care and threaten the quality of care provided. To resolve this intolerable situation, the task force recommended the federal government provide full funding for veterans health care through modifications to the current budget and appropriations process, by using a mandatory funding mechanism or by some other changes to achieve the desired goal.
Guaranteed full funding for the VA health care system is not about politics; it is a realization that taking care of America’s sick and disabled veterans is a continuing cost of national defense.