Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Plus-up will add $410 million for veterans programs

Washington, DC) U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, joined with Senators John Ensign (R-Nevada), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) in sponsoring an amendment to the budget now before the Senate.

Their proposal will increase money available for veterans benefits and services by $410 million, bringing a total increase of $1.2 billion in discretionary spending for VA's budget for 2006.

"At a time of war, when we have young men and women coming back with great medical needs, we need to make sure that VA is prepared to provide them with the best care possible," Craig said.

If approved by colleagues, the amendment (number 171) to the Senate Budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 18) will provide sufficient funding to do all of the following:
* Keep prescription co-pays at $7 - rejecting the proposal to increase co-pays to $15.
* Reject the proposal to impose a $250 enrollment fee on lower priority vets.
* Protect those in veterans nursing homes - rejecting the proposal to scale back state nursing home per diem payments made by VA.
* Adopt the President's request to spend an additional $100 M for mental health services.
* Adopt the President's request to spend an additional $100 M for prosthetics.
* Adopt the President's requests for all other non-medical discretionary accounts which would allow for a $116 million in increased funding for construction;
* Adopt an increase in disability claims staffing of 128 full time employees; and the continued expansion of the National Cemetery System, including $41 million for land acquisition to build 6 new cemeteries.

As Craig took to the floor to speak about the amendment, he reminded his colleagues that veterans have fared very well in the past few years, noting that since President Bush took office:

* Medical care funding for veterans has increased 41 percent.
* The VA has increased the number of enrolled veterans by 57 percent - from 4.9 million enrolled vets to 7.7 million.
* The quality of care has improved - veterans are more likely now than four years ago to be seen "on time" at their specialty care or primary care appointments.
* Washington Monthly - a magazine described by Democrat advisor James Carville as a "progressive must-read" - last month characterized the VA health care system in a cover article as the "BEST CARE ANYWHERE."
* There has been a 55 percent increase in Montgomery GI Bill educational assistance benefits since President Bush took office.
* Survivors' and Dependents' educational assistance benefits have increased 37 percent.
* There has been a substantial increase - from $203,000 to $359,650 -- in the maximum VA loan a veteran can qualify for without a down payment.

"The president has done a great job for veterans and has done a great job to put this nation back on the road to fiscal soundness. As supportive as I have been of the President, however, it's clear that the budget proposal for veterans is not enough, so this amendment works within the overall budget parameters that the President has set, and increases funding for veterans," Craig said.

Senator David Vitter, a former U.S. Congressman from Louisiana who was elected last year to serve in the U.S. Senate also expressed his comments about the amendment.
"Our veterans should be honored properly for their service to our country," said U.S. Sen. David Vitter. "This amendment helps lower the costs for veterans to get the medical benefits and services they've earned."


Post a Comment

<< Home