|Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2004--"The president ignored veterans in the State of the Union Address and with today's release of his 2005 budget, it is further evident that veterans are no longer a priority with this administration," said the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., expressing dismay at the disgraceful 1.8% increase in veterans' medical care funding. "We look to Congress to reject the president's inadequate proposal and to provide a budget that fully acknowledges the debt our nation owes its veterans."|
VFW Commander-in-Chief Edward S. Banas Sr., of Voluntown, Conn., said that with only a $500 million increase in medical funding, the administration's budget falls $2.6 billion short of what the Independent Budget recommends is needed to fully meet the demands for quality veterans' health care. "This funding package is a disgrace and a sham," Banas said.
"This deplorable budget will do nothing to alleviate the many thousands of veterans who are waiting six months or more for basic health care appointments with VA. Instead, the budget seeks to drive veterans from the system by realigning funding, charging enrollment fees for access and more than doubling the prescription drug copayment. This is inexcusable, especially when no member of this administration or Congress would wait this long for their health care.
"What the administration is proposing for veterans is a shell game. Veterans are being asked to pay for their own health care to make up for shortages in the budget. We are adamantly opposed to charging veterans an enrollment fee and we are opposed to increasing payments that veterans make for prescriptions and for other health care services, especially when millions of this nation's veterans are already locked out of the system," Banas said. "To ask this nation's veterans to subsidize their health care is outrageous. They have already paid for their health care with their sweat and with their blood.
"This budget indefensibly will not meet the increasing health care needs of our veterans, nor will it lessen the many months they wait for disability benefits.
"As our veteran population ages and service men and women return from Afghanistan and Iraq, we must have a system that meets the health care needs of all veterans. It is clear that, just as we fought on the battlefields, we must now bring the fight to the halls of Congress to rectify this disgraceful budget. Having traveled throughout the nation, I know that the American people will not tolerate this shoddy treatment of America's veterans, especially at a time of war," Banas said.