We Need Help - Now
BY THOMAS H. COREY
I don't like to repeat myself in this
column, but I feel it is necessary at this point. We have a
serious problem that needs to be addressed now if we are to
support our future health - care needs. During my visit to Washington for Memorial Day, I met with
several U.S. Senators to ask for their assistance on the
Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care Budget for FY 2003. We
asked that they again take a role in speaking to their colleagues
about supporting the $25.5 billion budget - the minimum needed to
support our health-care system properly.
We also discussed the critical need today
for supplemental appropriations dollars to prevent further
degradation and deterioration of the system. The House Appropriations Committee has approved a $417 million
supplemental request for health care. The Senate Appropriations
Committee matched the House's $417
million just before the Memorial Day recess. As of this writing,
that supplemental appropriations bill is on the Senate floor. We are pleased that
Congress listened to our collective VVA message and those of the other veterans
service organizations. We applaud those who recognized the health-care need and introduced these additional dollars.
I personally thank all of you who have called or sent e-mails or
letters by fax to your members of Congress.
So, we have a major task in front of us, again: the VAís FY 2003
budget. We need to remind the administration, elected
representatives, those looking to be re-elected, their opposition,
and those controlling the budget that veterans are here. A minimum
$25.5 billion must be agreed on. There is need for more. The VSOs
are together on this number. There was a lot of time devoted to
presenting the right figures to Congress and the administration
through the Independent Budget agreed on by the majority of VSOs.
We have been stating for some time that health care for
service-disabled veterans should be an entitlement, just as it is
for military retirees and Medicare recipients. There is nothing
"discretionary" about caring for disabled veterans, and
proper spending needs to be mandatory. In discussions with our
elected representatives, their staff, OMB, and others, we stated
that veterans need to be considered when deciding where the
dollars are directed.
We have been waiting for too many years to
be recognized appropriately just to get what is a duty of the
nation: a health-care system that is properly staffed and able to
provide quality, timely care to those who served honorably - along
with our future veterans.
We talked about present and future veterans and the message
being sent to us. Was our service for nothing, or was our service
important? If we can't get recognized today - especially with all
that has happened since September 11 and the focus on those
serving today - we will never be recognized. The message will be
very clear to us: We are not a priority.
Your help is needed. Our "Veterans Vote" campaign is up and
running. Material has been sent out to chapters and state
councils, and itís on our Web page. Register veterans and their
families and our supporters to vote in as visible a way as
possible with local press coverage. Visit your elected
representativesí offices while they are at home. Your voice is
Remember our troops. God Bless.