WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 Today, the American Federation of Government Employees and its National VA Council applauded the White House's proposed funding increases for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The White House's proposed fiscal year 2011 budget provides $57 billion in funding for the VA. For more than two decades, AFGE, which represents over 180,000 employees in the VA, has joined veterans' groups in calling for full funding of veterans' services.
The release of this year's budget is an especially momentous occasion for veterans and its dedicated workforce. The FY 2011 budget marks the first two-year funding cycle for the VA health care system. On October 22, 2009, AFGE stood proudly with veterans' groups at the White House signing of Public Law 111-81, funding reform legislation that ensures more predictable, adequate funding for VA health care by authorizing Congress to providing health care dollars one year ahead of time through advance appropriations. For the first time in the history of the VA's budget, this year, the President's budget request includes health care funds for two years.
"We applaud President Obama for standing by his commitment to veterans' health care needs," said J. David Cox, AFGE National Secretary Treasurer and retired VA Nurse. "VA hospitals, clinics and long term care facilities can finally count on getting the dollars they need for timely hiring, equipment purchases and construction." Funding reform, which was supported by the president when he was a Senator, will put an end to yearly shortfalls and supplemental funding bills.
AFGE and its National VA Council have been longtime advocates for mandatory funding of the VA, an approach widely supported by the veterans' community. AFGE with the nine veterans' groups comprising the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform endorsed advanced appropriations as an alternative funding approach that is achievable in the short term. "Yearly funding delays were driving up costs by requiring the VA to turn to more and more contract care from providers not specializing in veterans' health care needs, fraying the fabric of VA's world class health care system," said Cox. "Finally, the VA health care system is on the right track."
AFGE is also very pleased the administration has dedicated a substantial amount of resources towards the unique needs of women veterans, as well as dedicating $800 million towards tackling homelessness among veterans. "For years our military has been strengthened by the contributions of female members of the armed services. We are especially pleased that the administration has recognized that the 21st Century VA must be responsive to their needs," said Cox. "Likewise, in a nation as rich and grateful as ours, no veteran should ever be condemned to homelessness. This budget reflects those commitments and we commend the President for it."
The American Federation of Government Employees is the largest federal employee union representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia, including over 180,000 workers
SOURCE American Federation of Government Employees