September 18, 2008, Washington, DC – Americans believe that providing medical care to injured, sick and disabled veterans should be near the top of our nation’s priorities, in line with resolving the war in Iraq and lowering gas prices, according to a new nationwide survey. What’s more, three-quarters of the public think the federal government is not doing enough to support military veterans.
And what do Americans think should be done? A large majority (83 percent) favor requiring Congress to determine the Department of Veterans Affairs health care budget one year in advance to prevent funding delays, and five in 10 say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported this change in funding.
According to the survey, over four in 10 Americans (44 percent) say that providing medical care to injured, sick and disabled veterans should be a “top priority” for the next President and Congress. Similar numbers place a high priority on resolving the war in Iraq (45 percent) and energy policies to lower gasoline prices (43 percent).
“The results of this survey clearly show that the American public supports efforts by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and others to ensure sufficient, timely and predictable funding for veterans health care,” said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director David W. Gorman. “And it shows broad public support for legislation being introduced in Congress today that would change the way veterans health care is funded.”
The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act, being introduced with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate today, would authorize funding for VA medical care a year in advance. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and in the House by Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-Calif.). Joining Filner as original co-sponsors are Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Phil Hare (D-Ill.). Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are original co-sponsors of the Senate bill.
“Advanced funding would be a vast improvement over the current budget and appropriations process, which has become highly politicized and puts both the VA health care system and its patient population at risk,” said Gorman.
In the past 21 years, the VA spending bill has been completed on time just twice. Unfortunately, lawmakers have instead relied on a series of continuing resolutions that have led to funding shortfalls and rationing of care.
Additionally, VA funding growth has not nearly kept pace with its patient workload demands. “A method of assured funding, such as the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act, would eliminate the year-to-year uncertainty about funding levels that has plagued the VA for years,” Gorman said.
The survey found that two other high-priority DAV proposals attract support from large majorities of Americans. One proposal is to improve screening and treatment of traumatic brain injury and mental health issues for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and another is to extend financial benefits to caregivers of severely disabled veterans.
These are among the key findings of a nationally representative telephone survey of 827 adults conducted between Aug. 20 and Aug. 24 by Belden Russonello & Stewart on an omnibus questionnaire for the Disabled American Veterans. The margin of sampling error for a sample of this size is +/- 3.4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
The survey’s full results and independent analysis are available on the DAV Web site at www.dav.org/voters/documents/veteran_survey_memo.pdf.
The 1.2 million-member Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932, represents this nation’s disabled veterans. It is dedicated to a single purpose: building better lives for our nation’s disabled veterans and their families. For more information, visit the organization’s Web site, www.dav.org.