Thursday, May 13, 2004

Kerry Wrong On Veterans' Health Care

John Kerry criticized the Bush administration today for cutting funding for Veterans Administration health programs, leaving hundreds of thousands without veterans health benefits.

This is not just political vote-gathering rhetoric - it's an outright lie.

President Bush has increased funding for the Veterans Administration by 27% in his first three years in office. With the acceptance of the 2005 budget, the total increase on Veterans Administration spending under the Bush administration will be 38%. Compare this to an increase of almost 32% over the eight years President Clinton was in office.

What is significant about the Bush VA funding increases is he has increased discretionary funding alone by over 30% - not just the funding for disability benefits. According to the VA, the number of veterans receiving health benefits has increased by 1.8 million veterans or 26% during the Bush administration and the number of VA clinics is up nearly 40%.

Anthony Principi, Secretary of Veterans Affairs made a statement before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs on 4 February, 2004 in which personally presented President Bush's 2005 budget proposal for the VA. He notes an increase which supports his three highest priorities. Secretary Principi also notes he will be able to now treat 5.2 million unique patients - a 21% increase over Clinton administration totals.

Secretary Principi notes he isn't getting everything he wants and he wants to work with Congress to secure funding for certain programs, like getting rid of the pharmacy co-payment, but goes on to say, "The 2005 budget includes several other legislative and regulatory proposals that are designed to expand health care benefits for the Nation's veterans. Among the most significant of these is a provision that would give the Department the authority to pay for insured veteran patients' out-of-pocket expenses for urgent care services if emergency/urgent care is obtained outside of the VA health care system."

Finally, Secretary Principi states, "The President's 2005 budget will provide VA with the resources necessary to continue to improve our delivery of benefits and services, particularly for veterans with service-connected conditions, those with lower incomes, and veterans with special health care needs."

This is what John Kerry calls a cut in Veteran's benefits.


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