President’s FY 2006 Budget Disappoints VFW
Washington, Feb. 7, 2005–“The president has delivered a disappointing funding request for the Department of Veterans Affairs,” said the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., in reaction to the administration’s fiscal year 2006 budget request that was released today.
“The claimed increase of $880 million for VA health care funding is really only about $100 million once you subtract those amounts that would be shouldered by military veterans,” said John Furgess, the VFW’s commander-in-chief. “And $100 million neither matches inflation nor do anything to help the VA keep pace with the needs of a veterans’ population that now includes wounded troops from Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.
“This budget will cause veterans’ health care to be delayed and may result in the return of six-month-long waiting periods. That is especially shameful during a time of war.”
Two key issues are the proposals to charge a $250 enrollment fee that would impact approximately 2.2 million veterans and a prescription co-payment that would more than double from $7 to $15. The VFW is concerned that the enrollment fee and prescription co-payment increases will cost some veterans thousands of extra dollars in health care expenses, while driving others away from the VA, to include those who may not have access to other forms of health care.
“The message that this budget communicates is that part of the federal government’s deficit will be balanced on the backs of military veterans,” he said, “because it’s clear that the proper funding of veterans health care and other programs is not an aAdministration priority.”
The budget proposal slashes $351 million from veterans’ nursing homes by serving 28,000 fewer residents and significantly reduces state grants from $114 million to $12 million. It cuts $4 million from medical and prosthetic research, bringing to $53 million the total amount cut from research in two years. The proposed increase of 113 employees to help process veterans disability claims barely covers the number of positions that were deleted just last year, and won’t begin to make a dent in the current backlog of 480,000 compensation and pension claims, a number of which are from veterans from the current war on terrorism.
“The country’s 25 million veterans, 2.2 million uniformed members and their families voted overwhelmingly for this administration last year to make a difference in their lives,” said Furgess, “yet this budget fails to live up to the nation’s obligation to veterans because it doesn’t acknowledge that the costs of war continue long after the last shots are fired.”
The VFW national commander is now calling on all 2.4 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliaries, as well as all servicemembers and their families, to urge their congressional members to correct the shortfalls in this budget.”
“Without the American soldier, there would not have been a United States of America, and I shudder to imagine the rest of the world,” he said. “Our nation must honor its commitment to care for those who are ultimately responsible for every liberty we enjoy today.”