Veterans Groups Express Need for Mandatory Funding of VA Health Care

Published: February 19, 2004
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 /U.S. Newswire/ — As veterans across the country continue to face health care rationing and longer waiting times due to inadequate appropriations, and the tardiness with which they have been provided, a partnership of nine major veterans service organizations met today to urge Congress to enact legislation making Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care funding mandatory. Tom Corey, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America stated that the “goal of this campaign is to fix the manner in which the veterans health care system is funded.”

VA is the largest national medical system in the country. Robert W. Spanogle, National Adjutant of The American Legion, said that “VA medical care continues to be the health care provider of choice for many veterans, especially those with service-connected disabilities, catastrophic medical conditions, economically indigent, uninsured veterans, and Medicare-eligible veterans.” He explained that “VA health care is recognized nationally for its quality of care, medical and prosthetics research, geriatrics care, and specialized services, to include long-term care, treatment of spinal cord injury, drug and alcohol Rehabilitation, homeless veterans programs, blinded rehabilitation, and mental health programs.” Dennis Cullinan, National Legislative Director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, commented the “VA does not have the financial resources it needs to provide the health care these veterans earned by virtue of their service. As a result, VA has resorted to rationing health care and driving veterans away from the system.”

The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform believes that the best solution to the problems that VA faces in providing timely access to quality care is mandatory funding. Alan W. Bowers, National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans, said that “moving VA health care from a discretionary to a mandatory funding method would ensure that VA receives sufficient resources to care for veterans who use the VA health care system.” He emphasized that mandatory funding “would eliminate the year-to-year uncertainty about funding levels” and that VA would be able to “adequately plan for and meet the growing needs of veterans seeking medical treatment.”

Expressing concern with the discretionary process and the negative impact it has on veterans, James B. King, Executive Director of AMVETS (American Veterans), explained that “because of continuing funding shortfalls, an entire category of veterans (Category 8) is banned from the medical care they earned and deserve through their military service.” Thomas Miller, Executive Director of the Blinded Veterans Association, said that “inadequate funding levels make it extremely difficult for specialized services such as blind rehabilitation to maintain current programs. The health and rehabilitative care provided by a grateful nation should not be held hostage to the discretionary ‘whims’ of our government.”

Delatorro L. McNeal, Executive Director of Paralyzed Veterans of America, stated that “if the health care system cannot get the funds it needs when it needs those funds the result only fuels efforts to deny more veterans health care.” He concluded that “the Partnership calls on every member of Congress to ‘Honor America’s Commitment to Veterans’ by making veterans’ health care funding mandatory.”

The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform includes The American Legion, AMVETS, Blinded Veterans Association, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Military Order of the Purple Heart of the U.S.A, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and Vietnam Veterans of America.