Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

SENATE VETERANS' AFFAIRS COMMITTEE TO HOLD HEARING ON PROPOSED BUDGET FOR VETERANS

After four years of record increases, challenges are ahead


(Washington, DC) Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Larry Craig
(R-Idaho) said today that his committee will hold a hearing next week on the President's proposed budget for America's veterans.

It will be held in room 418 of the Russell Senate Office Building, Tuesday, February 15, starting at 10 a.m. and webcast live on the committee's website: http://veterans.senate.gov. It may also be available - audio-only - on the C-SPAN website for committee hearings, located at http://www.capitolhearings.org.

Among the witnesses will be Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson, and representatives of The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and AMVETS.

Under the President's proposal, the VA will help former POW's by eliminating co-payments for long-term care. The VA will also help all veterans who seek emergency care in facilities other than VA hospitals by treating them financially as if the medical help had been provided in a VA facility.

"After four years of record increases, the President has proposed slowing the rate of growth. That is what all of us expected. I warned VA Secretary Jim Nicholson about this when we held his confirmation hearing a few weeks ago - the fiscal environment is tougher than it has
been," Craig said.

The budget for veterans programs has gone up by approximately 10 percent a year since 2001. If Congress adopts the latest budget proposal, funding for veterans health care will have increased by more than 47 percent since 2001.

"In these past four years nearly 1.5 million additional veterans were able to receive care and nearly 200 new community-based health clinics were opened, or are being built now," Craig said. The new budget proposes to fund 28 new outpatient clinics, and other several other major projects throughout the nation.

Under the White House proposal, veterans with incomes over approximately $25,000 a year, and who do not have a service-connected disability, will be asked to pay a $250 annual fee. (Those who have a service connected condition will not have to pay the $250 fee.) The proposal also calls for a prescription drug co-payment of $15 for a 30-day supply of medication.

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