(Washington, D.C.) – "The budget proposed by the President for veterans
health care for the next fiscal year is not only inadequate, it's an insult
to veterans," said Thomas H. Corey, national president of Vietnam Veterans
of America (VVA). "It represents a clear-cut case of misplaced priorities.
The same budget that calls for generous funding to wage war ignores the real
needs of those who return from the war zone, and will impose undue hardship
"We do not accept or comprehend the logic behind this budget," Corey said.
"It depends on $340 million in unnamed 'management efficiencies' as well as
an $800 million carryover from the FY 2004 budget. It assumes that Congress
will impose a $250 a year user fee on some veterans already in the VA
system. This is unrealistic and reckless," Corey added.
A rising chorus of disappointment and anger by the veterans' community and
members of Congress has greeted the President's budget proposal, which calls
for an increase for the VA's medical operations of a paltry $500 million, or
1.8 percent. The budget continues the ban on enrollment of Priority 8
veterans in FY 2005.
"This is dollar-driven, not a needs-driven, request," Corey said. "While
claiming to be true to its core mission, it continues to close the system to
veterans who just a few years ago were sought after and indeed welcomed with
open arms by the VA. If the Administration has decided to deny millions of
veterans access to VA health care by excluding them from VA health-care
services by design of its budget requests, then the Administration should be
honest about its intentions," Corey added.
"It's time, in this critical election year, for those in Congress who claim
to be friends of veterans to demonstrate their allegiance not with words but
with deeds by flat-out rejecting this budget proposal and moving to pass
mandatory funding for health care for veterans, in addition to providing
proper funding for FY 2005," Corey said.