Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bush Breaks Nation's Promise to Veterans



Bush Breaks Nation's Promise to Veterans

Appearing yesterday at the Arlington National Cemetery to honor
generations of sacrifices by American servicemen and women, President Bush
said, "At our national cemetery, we take comfort from knowing that the men
and women who are serving freedom's cause understand their purpose and
its price." Yet the reality has been that the administration that most
recently has sent those men and women to fight for freedom's cause has
failed to live up to government's age-old promise
(http://www1.va.gov/opa/feature/celebrate/vamotto.htm) to "care for him
who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."

BUSH'S 2006 VA BUDGET HITS VETERANS HARD: President Bush's 2006 budget
proposal included legislation that would raise veterans' premiums more
than 100 percent on prescription drugs and add an annual $250
enrollment fee for veterans who want care for conditions not directly caused by
military service and who generally earn more than $25,000 a year. The
administration has recommended these same proposals in each of the past
few years, only to have them beaten back by Congress each time. The
user fee would increase costs for nearly 2 million veterans nationwide.

Congress rebuffed an effort to include $2 billion in emergency money for
veterans' health care in the recently passed $82 billion Iraq war
supplemental. The president's request increased the VA budget a mere 2.7
percent (including the increased co-pays and enrollment fees), hardly
sufficient to deal with an expected influx of Afghanistan and Iraq war
veterans in the coming years. Nearly 28,000 soldiers who served in Iraq and
were discharged have already sought care at a VA facility. Of the nearly
245,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan already discharged from
service, 12,422 have been in VA counseling centers for readjustment problems
and symptoms associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. VA
Secretary Jim Nicholson has said the budget circumstances are not "dire," yet
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Larry Craig (R-ID) was
forced to increase the 2006 budget request by $1 billion. Dave Autry, a
spokesman for the Disabled American Veterans, said
(http://www.veteransforcommonsense.org/index.cfm?page=Article&ID=2794) ,
"Vets are owed a debt and the government has said they are eligible for
health care. The government needs to pay for it. It's a continuing cost
of our national defense."

in Bush's backyard, near his ranch in Crawford, Texas, are protesting
his administration's decision to close a VA hospital in their town. "It
would be, in my opinion, a tragic mistake to shut down our hospital,
especially during a time of war when tomorrow's veterans are in harm's
way today," said U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Waco). In May 2004, then-VA
Secretary Anthony Principi announced he would be closing three veterans
hospitals nationwide and partially closing eight others. For his work,
Principi was rewarded with an appointment to the chairmanship of the
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission.

VETERANS GROUPS SLAM BUSH BUDGET: More than 300,000 veterans' claims
are pending before the VA, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and
the number of claims pending for more than six months rose from 47,000
in 2003 to 75,000 at the end of March 2005. The deteriorating condition
of VA health care has elicited plenty of criticism. The American Legion
called Bush's budget "the wrong message at the wrong time to the wrong
constituency." The Vietnam Veterans of America said the budget did a
"disservice to those of us who donned the uniform to defend the rights,
principles, and freedoms that we hold dear." And the Veterans of Foreign
Wars decried Bush's decision as " especially shameful during a time of
war (http://www.vfw.org/index.cfm?fa=news.newsDtl&did=2362) ."