(WASHINGTON, DC) – In testimony before a joint session of the Senate and House Committees on Veterans’ Affairs, VVA National President John Rowan both praised and damned Congress for actions taken and not taken, and hit on legislation that, if enacted, could make a huge difference in the lives of veterans and their families.
“Congress deserves our thanks for the significant increases in appropriations for veterans health care in the current fiscal year, although you must exercise stringent oversight to ensure that the funding goes to where it’s supposed to go,” Rowan said. “And we hope you will be firm in adding the $5.24 billion that VVA believes is needed for FY’09, part of which would enable so-called ‘higher income’ veterans to enroll in the VA healthcare system.
“Still, we remain staunch in our advocacy for the passage of an assured funding bill that would end the annual wrangling over veterans healthcare funding,” Rowan said. “We have endorsed H.R. 2514 and companion legislation in the Senate, S. 331, and we again urge you to give these your consideration particularly now, at a time when the VA should be anticipating an influx of 100,000 new veterans during the next fiscal year.”
Rowan also noted legislation introduced recently by freshman Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to help returning veterans transition into colleges and universities and provide support to help them succeed in higher education. His “Supporting Education for Returning Veterans Act” would provide grants to institutions of higher learning to establish one-stop centers to provide services and support to veterans on campus.
Rowan reiterated VVA’s support for S. 1314, which would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to have line items in its budget for outreach, a significant failing of that department. “There are tens of thousands of veterans who remain ignorant of the services and benefits available to them because of their service to our country,” Rowan said. “And most of them don’t get their health care at VA facilities.”
Regarding an unacceptable situation faced by veterans who do get their health care at the VA medical center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rowan urged funding for an off-site parking facility and shuttle-bus service to transport VA workers to the VAMC, freeing up precious parking spaces for their patients. “This is no solution to the problems of infrastructure at that VAMC,” Rowan said, “but it can alleviate a persistent problem.”
To read the VVA's testimony go to http://www.vva.org/testimony.html