The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

June/July 2002
Photo:Michael Keating
We Need Help - Now

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 important.

Remember our troops. God Bless.



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