145-0129 r w bc-PVA-Vets-benefits PVA Seeks Full Funding of VA Health-Care Benefits


WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Richard Fuller, national legislative director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), testified today on Capitol Hill that growing demand by veterans with spinal cord injury and dysfunction for specialized services cannot be reasonably resolved by curtailing access to other services.

At issue is a pattern of chronic underfunding that has placed the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health-care system in crisis. Appearing before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Fuller stated that the VA has limited patient enrollment as way to cope with chronic underfunding.

"PVA was saddened by the decision to curtail enrollment for new Category 8s. Still, that decision would have, at first glance, little impact on most PVA members," Fuller said. "Under current enrollment regulations veterans who are classified as 'catastrophically disabled' are eligible to enroll as Category 4, a currently protected classification. Certain PVA members, those with milder or early onset spinal cord dysfunction, not meeting the definition of 'catastrophic,' could be affected by the decision. We hope to work with the Secretary to see that those who have a need for the specialized services only provided by VA could gain entry into the system. On a second look, however, PVA members have not found a 'safe haven' in the VA enrollment system seeking services. Those who gain entry into the system are at equal risk of losing access to services as those who are seeking care for the first time. Budget strains are affecting every aspect of health care the VA now provides.

"Fiscal Year 2002 is a classical example of the state we are in. The Congress approved FY 2002 funding levels that were higher than the Administration's proposal, but still inadequate to meet the projected demands on the system. The Secretary proposed and the Congress approved a $400 million supplemental appropriation last summer, but the Administration only allowed $140 million of that to be applied. The Congress adjourned last fall without approving a FY 2003 VA appropriation. The health care system has been limping along for the past five months at inadequate FY 2002 funding levels. The Senate, last week, voted for a version of the FY 2003 appropriation that, after across-the-board reductions, cut $700 million from the health care line item. If this proposal is allowed to stand in conference, that reduction equates to a loss of health care options for 240,000 currently enrolled veterans."

Concluding his testimony, Fuller called for a commitment to guaranteed funding of a comprehensive benefit package to all eligible veterans who choose VA. "Unlike today's situation, currently eligible veterans must be guaranteed provision of promised services."

The full text of Fuller's testimony can be accessed at: http://www.pva.org/NEWPVASITE/caphil...2003/03001.htm

The Paralyzed Veterans of America, a veterans service organization chartered by Congress, has for more than 55 years served the needs of its members, all of whom have catastrophic paralysis caused by spinal cord injury or disease. To learn more about PVA, visit its web site at http://www.pva.org.

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Contact: David J. Uchic of Paralyzed Veterans of America, 202-416-7667