The Independent Budget: A Budget for Veterans by Veterans; Budget Plan a 'Bitter Pill' for Veterans

WASHINGTON, Feb 20, 2002 (U.S. Newswire via COMTEX) -- What is being touted as "an historic increase in spending for veterans health" care is in reality an attempt to sugar coat a bitter pill the Bush administration wants sick and disabled veterans to swallow, major veterans groups warn.

"Pronouncements by the administration about the proposed budget could create some misunderstanding about veterans medical care funding," said authors of The Independent Budget. "The proposed $26.4 billion discretionary programs budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) actually would do little to improve the funding picture for veterans health care."

Of the $25.5 billion the administration claims the budget will provide for veterans medical programs, $816 million will simply shift personnel-related costs to VA from the Office of Personnel Management. Another $1.6 billion is to offset inflation, higher pharmaceutical costs, and mandated VA employee pay raises. All in all, the administration plan would seek a $22.74 billion appropriation for veterans medical care - approximately $1.75 billion less than authors of The Independent Budget believe is needed.

Recommendations for funding levels and policy changes to provide VA with the necessary resources are detailed in The Independent Budget, co-authored annually by AMVETS, the Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the VFW.

For VA medical care funding, The Independent Budget recommends $24.5 billion, $3.1 billion above the fiscal year 2002 level. This recommendation takes into account health care inflation and a $1.5 billion identified shortfall in this year's VA budget.

Under the Bush administration's budget plan, certain veterans would have to pay 45 percent of the cost of their care each year, up to $1,500. Those veterans also would have pharmacy co-payments and continue to pay a portion of their medical care even after meeting the $1,500 annual maximum deductible.

"This clearly is a move to shift more of health care costs from the government to veterans," said The Independent Budget authors. "Congress and the Administration have an obligation to provide adequate appropriations to meet those needs. Co-payments from veterans or their health insurance should not substitute for appropriations."

The Independent Budget is a comprehensive policy document created annually by veterans for veterans. It serves as a guide to the Congress and the Administration as they develop the VA budget to meet the needs of our country's 25 million veterans. To view or download a copy of this year's Independent Budget from the Internet, go to www.independentbudget.org.
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AMVETS-a leader since 1944 in preserving the freedoms secured by America's Armed Forces-provides, not only support for veterans and the active military in procuring receipt of their earned entitlements, but also community services that enhance the quality of life for this nation's citizens.
The million-member Disabled American Veterans, a nonprofit organization founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932, is dedicated to one, single purpose: building better lives for our nation's disabled veterans and their families.

The Paralyzed Veterans of America, a veterans service organization chartered by Congress, has for more than 50 years served the needs of its members, all of whom have catastrophic paralysis caused by spinal cord injury or disease.

The VFW is a 1.9 million-member veterans service organization, now in its 102nd year, with a nationwide network of some 9,500 Posts and service officers working to build better communities and assist all veterans and their dependents with problems involving VA entitlements and pensions.