WASHINGTON -- February 8 -- The Administration has proposed one of the most tight-fisted, miserly budgets for veterans programs in recent memory, said the 1.2 million member Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Instead of providing adequate funds for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical system, the budget proposes to shift the cost burden onto the backs of veterans, making health care more expensive and even less accessible for millions of America's defenders.
"The VA medical system has been strained to the breaking point over the years because its appropriation has failed to keep pace with the skyrocketing costs of health care and increased patient loads," said National Commander James E. Sursely. "As a result VA facilities across the country are cutting staff and limiting services even as the number of veterans seeking care is on the rise."
As called for in the President's budget, total VA funding for the next fiscal year would increase about 1 percent, from the current $67.5 billion to $68.2 billion. More than half of the budget would go for mandatory programs such as disability compensation and pensions. Medical care for veterans would rise from $27.7 billion $27.8 billion with the bulk of that so-called increase coming almost entirely out of veterans' pockets.
"The DAV and other major veterans service organizations are united in calling on Congress to provide $31.2 billion for veterans medical care, $3.4 billion more than the President has requested," said Commander Sursely "We also are united in opposition to imposing new fees and higher co-payments on certain veterans who choose to get their care from the VA."
The Administration wants to impose a new $250 annual user fee on certain veterans who also would see their prescription drug co-payments more than doubled, from $7 to $15. Those veterans who do not have service-connected disabilities already pay for the health care they receive from the VA. Adding to their out-of- pocket costs, would force them out of the system and put even greater strain on resources needed to treat their fellow veterans.
"A medical system that only treats the sickest of the sick and the poorest of the poor is not sustainable and would be undesirable. In the end, it would seriously erode the quality of care for today's veterans and tomorrow's," said Sursely.
The impact of the current budget shortfall on veterans medical care has been felt across the country as indicated by recent news reports of belt-tightening at VA hospitals. "With an inadequate appropriation in the President's budget for next year, the situation is likely to get even worse," said Sursely.
"This budget proposal is bad news for the nation's veterans, made even more distressing in light of the war in Iraq and military operations if Afghanistan and elsewhere," he added.
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 wartime 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 http://www.dav.org.