From: Democratic Leader Pelosi []
Sent: Tuesday, July 12, 2005 7:41 PM
Subject: Congressmen Evans and Edwards Discuss Republican Implosion on Veterans Health Care

Veterans' and Military Retirees' News
From House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Statements from House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Democratic Congressman Lane Evans (D-IL) and Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards (D-TX), Ranking Democrat on the Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee follow:

Washington, D.C. - Less than two weeks after first telling Congress it could ride out the fiscal year with inadequate funding, then reversing and asking for $975 million in supplemental funds, the Bush Administration today admitted it needs yet another $300 million to take care of veterans' health care needs through September. The nearly $1.3 billion the Administration now admits is necessary is exactly the amount Democrats have long urged and is in line with funding recommended by a group of national veterans' organizations that annually develop and submit an independent budget view.

On June 28th every House Democrat signed a letter to the President requesting he submit a $1.3 billion supplemental funding request for fiscal year 2005. Moreover, former Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ) and current Ranking Democratic Member Lane Evans (D-IL) were on target more than a year ago when they submitted the Committee's bipartisan views and estimates to the Budget Committee citing a need for an additional $2.5 billion over the President's fiscal year 2005 budget request. That effort fell short by $1.3 billion.

"This whole funding process has become a farce, except that it's not a laughing matter," said Evans. "The Administration had better wake up and get it right instead of relegating veterans and their needs to the lowest priority levels. Now that we've seen the wrong way to do things, I sincerely hope we're embarking on a renewed era of bipartisan collaboration to properly respond to veterans' health care needs," he added. Evans noted that it is "long past time to implement an assured funding process based on the number of veterans enrolled in the system with inflation factored in."

Despite Democratic efforts to boost the amount, the House of Representatives passed the $975 million supplemental as it adjourned for the Independence Day recess, instead of the higher - and more accurate - amount of $1.5 billion passed by the Senate. VA officials conceded today that the $975 million mark was incorrect and an additional $300 million is necessary to meet increased "intensity of utilization."

While the differing supplemental measures wait to be reconciled, more than 50,000 (and rising) veterans await health care appointments, clinical positions across the VA are not being filled, VA hospitals are deferring critical equipment purchases, there are shortages of medical supplies in some locations and the number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan seeking services at VA hospitals continues to rise.
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(Washington)- U.S. Representative Chet Edwards released the following statement upon learning that the VA is expected to again revise its shortfall estimates for veterans services in 2005 and 2006 Wednesday.

"Just 12 days ago, the VA testified that $975 million would cover the VA shortfall. Senate Republicans and Democrats in both the Senate and House felt the real shortfall was larger, but the VA and House Republican leadership said "No". Now the VA has revised its numbers yet again.

Even with this correction to the correction, I believe VA healthcare will be woefully underfunded in 2006 because the number assumes that Congress will double prescription drug co-pays and impose a new enrollment fee on veterans making over $30,000 annually. Congress has repeatedly sent a clear message that it will not."

Edwards is the ranking member of the Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee.