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President Bush’s Stated Commitment to Veterans Not Reflected in Budget

November 10, 2003 | Misleader.org

President Bush often emphasizes his commitment to veterans, saying in 2001, “My administration understands America's obligations not only go to those who wear the uniform today, but to those who wore the uniform in the past: to our veterans.”1

But the 200,000 veterans waiting six months or more for their first appointment at a VA facility would be denied access to VA health care under Bush's plan. Others would be charged $250 annual enrollment fees, doubled prescription costs and increased co-payments.2

The same day the President met with wounded soldiers and said that America “should and must provide the best care for anybody who is willing to put their life in harm's way,”3 the Veterans' Administration explained that it could solve the backlog problem by limiting enrollment. “VA would avoid very significant additional medical benefits costs and begin to bring demand in line with capacity, which will reduce the number of veterans on wait lists.”4

The administration would also reduce costs by denying access to “better-off”5 veterans – those who do not have service-related disabilities and with incomes as low as $21,050.6

Estimates suggest this would likely more than triple the number of veterans denied health care by FY 2005 to more than half a million7, and the VA anticipates that 55%8 of veterans who already participate in the VA health care plan, numbering 1.25 million, may be unable to continue participation due to the enrollment fee.9

Congress has called for $1.8 billion beyond what the administration requested for FY 2004 funding beyond the White House request.10

While funding for VA 2004 remains unresolved, Congress sought to include $1.3 billion in veterans' health care and extending reservists benefits who have been called up in the $87 billion emergency funding bill. The administration “strongly opposed” the provisions, articulated in a letter from White House Budget Director Joshua Bolten, which were later stripped.11

Sources:

  1. Presidential Speech to the VFW, 8/20/01; Presidential Speech to the American Legion, 8/29/01.
  2. http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2004/va.html
  3. President Bush Meets with Wounded Soldiers at Medical Center, 1/17/03.
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs, 38 CFR Part 17 Enrollment-Provision of Hospital and Outpatient Care to Veterans Subpriorities of Priority Categories 7 and 8 and Annual Enrollment Level Decision; Final Rule, 1/17/03.
  5. VA Seeks Record Budget, Shuts Health Care to Priority 8 Vets, American Forces Press Service, 1/24/03.
  6. http://www.house.gov/strickland/vetsreport.htm
  7. Department of Veterans Affairs, 38 CFR Part 17 Enrollment-Provision of Hospital and Outpatient Care to Veterans Subpriorities of Priority Categories 7 and 8 and Annual Enrollment Level Decision; Final Rule, 1/17/03.
  8. http://www.house.gov/larson/pr_030523.htm
  9. Etheridge: Budget Cuts Veterans, Rocky Mount Telegram, 4/1/03.
  10. Action Alert, American Legion.
  11. House vote backs loans as Iraq bill confronts new woes,” GovExec.com, 10/22/03.

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