VA Expects to Treat 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans in 2008

House Veterans' Affairs Committee

Veterans Day: Supporting our Veterans is a Mandate, Not a Slogan!

Each year on Veterans Day, Americans come together to honor our nation’s heroes.  Again, this year, our country is engaged in conflicts that require the dedication of our uniformed troops.  We may be divided on where we stand on this war, but we shall always stand together to support our veterans.  Our nation has a proud legacy of appreciation and commitment to the men and women who have worn the uniform in defense of this country.  We must be united in seeing that every soldier, sailor, airman and marine is welcomed back with all the care and compassion this grateful nation can bestow. 

Veterans Day has been observed annually on November 11th for 88 years.  Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.  Armistice Day was first commemorated in the United States by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919.  Congress passed a resolution in 1926 inviting all states to observe the day, and made it a legal holiday in 1938.  It has been observed annually on November 11 since then – first as Armistice Day, later as Veterans Day.

Veterans have kept their promise to serve our nation – and we must keep our promises to our veterans.  Democrats in Congress have made great strides in providing a new direction for funding these promises.  This Congress continues to demand that the President provide adequate funding for the warriors – not just the war.   The President approved a war funding bill in May which, at the request of Democrats in Congress, included $3.5 billion for veterans health programs.  Our men and women should not get first-class weapons in battle only to receive third-class benefits when they return home.  We must continue on a path to making the benefits provided to our veterans first-rate and uncompromised.

This year, Congress passed legislation to increase the VA budget by $6.7 billion above the 2007 level, the largest single increase in veterans’ funding in the 77-year history of the Department of Veterans Affairs.  The proposed budget increase will go for veterans’ health programs, including mental health care for returning veterans.  This bill means more than 1,100 new VA case workers to reduce the unacceptable delays in receiving earned benefits.  The bill also increases the VA’s maintenance and repair budget to prevent a Walter Reed scandal from occurring in the VA system. 

The reality is that this Administration did not ask for enough funding to begin addressing the problems faced by veterans.  The House passed the veterans funding bill with a vote of 409-2, with 185 Republican votes.  The President’s veto threats of the individual appropriations bills have gridlocked the budget negotiations and stalled this budget increase for veterans.  The 110th Congress will remain steadfast in fighting for the needs of America’s veterans.  I know that my colleagues in the House are committed to increase funding for veterans as soon as an agreement can be negotiated with the President. 

In 2008, the number of veterans receiving treatment is expected to include over 300,000 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  We must prepare to care for the veterans of current conflicts by beginning to address the long-term health care needs of combat veterans.  By enacting this budget, we are one step closer to keeping the promises we have made to our veterans. 

Currently, there are 25 million veterans in the United States.  On this 88th Veterans Day, please take the time to show appreciation to those who have answered the call to duty.  Although, we can never adequately thank them for their service and sacrifice to our nation, today we can humbly salute our brave veterans and soldiers.   

Congressman Bob Filner represents San Diego and Imperial Counties in the U.S. House of Representatives and is the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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