February 13, 2008 – “The annual exercise of debating the merits of the President’s proposed budget is flawed,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America, before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “Medical Center directors should not be held in limbo as Congress adjusts this budget and misses, yet again, the start of the fiscal year.
“These public servants can be more effective and efficient managers if they are able to properly plan for the funding needed to care for their patients. We ask that you consider an immediate alternative to the broken system we currently have,” Rowan said.
Rowan characterized as “inadequate” the FY’09 request for $2.34 billion more than the FY’08 appropriation. This “barely keeps up with inflation” and “will not allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to continue enhancing its physical and mental health care services for returning veterans, restore needed long-term care programs for aging veterans, or allow working-class veterans to return to their health care system.”
To accommodate these goals, Rowan said, VVA recommends an increase of $5.24 billion over FY’08. Of this amount, $1.3 billion should be dedicated to restoring access to Priority 8 veterans who were “temporarily” barred from entering the system five years ago.
Rowan condemned the proposed budget for again attempting to tax “higher income” veterans with an annual fee and for nearly doubling the co-payment for prescription drugs. “This is further evidence,” Rowan said, “of the attempt to rid the system of as many “higher income” veterans as possible.”
Rowan was skeptical that the President’s budget will provide resources “to virtually eliminate the patient waiting list by the end of 2009.” He voiced concern that the budget will provide adequate resources “to deal with the flood of troops and veterans returning to our shores and presenting with a range of mental health issues.”