WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is commending lawmakers for approving a conference report that will provide the largest increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs in its history. DAV now calls on Congress and the Administration to support this important legislation and enact it by Veterans Day.
"The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill calls for an 18 percent increase over the VA's 2007 funding level," said DAV Washington Headquarters Executive Director David W. Gorman. "This increase in veterans health care and other programs is especially welcome news at a time when our nation is at war."
As approved by a House-Senate negotiating panel, the measure calls for $43.1 billion in discretionary spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the bulk of which is for veterans health care services. That total is $6.6 billion above the fiscal year 2007 enacted level and $3.7 billion above the President's request. Importantly, the funding increase approved by Congress does not rely on user fees or higher prescription co-payments that had been part of the President's budget request.
Gorman noted, however, that, "...despite widespread support for the increase, Congress and the Administration have not enacted a new appropriation for the new fiscal year which began on October 1 -- five weeks ago. As a result, VA cannot yet use any of that pending increase to hire new doctors or nurses, purchase new medical equipment, or increase medical care delivery to waiting veterans," Gorman said.
"Once again, as has occurred in 17 of the last 19 years, VA is operating without new appropriations. Over the past five years, VA's appropriations have been late by an average of three and a half months, unnecessarily challenging VA's health care delivery system. All of this demonstrates the clear need to reform the budget and appropriations process to guarantee that VA gets an adequate budget in a timely manner," said Gorman.
The DAV has long urged Congress to find a better way to fund veterans health care by removing it from the annual discretionary spending battles. "Congress needs to establish a new system to fund VA health care to ensure that VA will receive sufficient, predictable and timely funding each and every year to meet the current and future needs of sick and disabled veterans," Gorman said.
Gorman highly praised the House and Senate leadership for recognizing the need for and providing generous support of discretionary funding levels, which for the first time were in line with the recommendations of The Independent Budget authored by the DAV and other veterans service organizations. "This much-needed funding increase, the largest in the 77-year history of the VA, will allow the agency to better meet the needs of the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as all veterans who have served in the past," he said.
The 1.3 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 http://www.dav.org.
SOURCE Disabled American Veterans