Akaka & Dems support increased funding for treatment of traumatic brain injures & VA mental health programs, while opposing higher fees for vets proposed by Bush Administration.
WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and the Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, including Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, reported their views and estimates for the
FY 2008 Veterans Affairs budget to the Senate Budget Committee. They recommended a $2.9 billion increase over the Administration's request for veterans' medical care.
?We believe that this is the amount necessary to treat all eligible veterans and maintain the quality of VA medical services through the upcoming fiscal year,? Chairman Akaka said. ?Specifically, we recommended an additional $300 million for treatment of traumatic brain injuries and an increase of $693 million over the Administration's request for VA mental health programs. These funds are essential to guarantee timely access to mental health services for veterans of the Global War on Terror and prior conflicts, including the Vietnam War.?
The Chairman and Democratic Members also rejected three legislative proposals recommended by the Administration that were designed to reduce funding requirements, through increased out-of-pocket fees for veterans, and by deterring certain categories of veterans from using the VA system.
In the FY 08 budget, the Bush Administration proposed:
? An increase in prescription drug co-payments from $8 to $15 for ?middle-income? veterans;
? an annual enrollment fee of $250 to $750 for veterans whose families make $50,000 a year or more;
? Eliminating the practice of offsetting VA first-party co-payment debts with collections from insurance companies.
?Once again, the Administration is suggesting that we ask veterans to pay more out of their own pockets. This is unacceptable. We remain committed in opposition to the policy proposals to impose higher costs on veterans.? Chairman Akaka said.
The other areas in which the Democratic Members recommended additional funding are:
? Staffing at the Veterans Benefits Administration and Board of Veterans' Appeals for the adjudication of claims;
? Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service;
? Funding to provide a proper pension for Filipino veterans who served alongside American troops during World War II.
?It is important for both Congress and the Administration to realize that meeting the needs of our veterans is an ongoing cost of war. Our nations' veterans deserve timely benefits and quality medical care. We can provide no less,? Chairman Akaka said.