Approximately One Billion More Dollars For Veterans Approved In U.S. Budget

May 4, 2005

Contact: Jeff Schrade 202-224-9093

(Washington, DC) During a marathon voting session, both the U.S. Senate and House have approved adding approximately one billion dollars for discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, including the $410 million additional dollars sought by the chairman of the Senate veterans' affairs committee.

?At a time of war and with an aging population of veterans, the U.S. Senate has sent a strong message to our servicemen and women that their sacrifice and continuing needs will be met.  Senator Everett Dirksen was famous for saying, ?A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you're talking about real money.'  This is real money,? said Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), who chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

The entire approved budget for the VA for 2006 is now over $70 billion.

"We can be proud that we have continued our commitment to the men and women who have served our nation both in times of war and peace," said House Committee on Veterans' Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) in statement issued Thursday.

The newly approved budget is the blueprint Congress will now work with as Senate and House appropriations committees approve the spending plans for federal agencies. 

According to Sen. Craig, the new budget will enable Congress to meet its commitments to veterans by: 

*  Keeping prescription drug co-pays at $7 ? rejecting the proposal to increase co-pays to $15.

*  Rejecting the proposal to impose a $250 enrollment fee on lower priority vets.

*  Protecting in-state veterans nursing homes ? rejecting the proposal to scale back nursing home per diem payments made by VA.

*  Adopting the President's request to spend an additional $100 million for mental health services.

*  Funding the President's request to spend an additional $100 million  for prosthetics.

*  Enabling the President's requests for all other non-medical discretionary accounts which would allow for $116 million in increased funding for construction, increasing the staff who handle disability claims, and continue the expansion of veterans' cemeteries.

House and Senate negotiators are still working an additional $81 billion emergency supplement spending bill which includes money sought by Sen. Craig for those servicemen and women who are traumatically injured.