(Washington, D.C.) – Today, the American Legion released a report detailing the massive delays facing veterans who seek healthcare at Veterans Administration (VA) facilities. The report called for changes in the way Congress funds veterans healthcare each year.
U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, hopes the report will spur needed investments in VA healthcare.
"This new report details what veterans have been telling me for years. They are still not getting the care they need," said Murray. "It's unacceptable that those who fought for our freedom are now trapped in a system that forces them to wait months before they can even get an appointment to see a doctor. Our veterans deserve better."
The report noted that many veterans are waiting six months or more to see a doctor. It also detailed staff shortages and challenges in making critical capital improvements. The report was written by Ronald Conley, national commander of the 2.8 million-member American Legion.
Conley urged Congress to make VA spending "mandatory," a procedural move that would help ensure the VA receives sufficient funding each year. Currently, VA funding must compete with other important priorities in the annual appropriations process. By contrast, Medicare and Social Security, two program that are designated as mandatory, are funded automatically and do not compete with other priorities. Murray supports this change sought by the American Legion and other veterans groups.
"By making VA spending mandatory, we can ensure that the funding will be there year after year to meet this critical need," said Murray, a cosponsor of S. 50, the Veterans Health Care Funding Guarantee Act of 2003.
Murray has long been committed to veterans' issues. Her father was a disabled World War II veteran. During college, Murray volunteered at the Seattle Veterans Hospital. She is the first woman to ever serve on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, where on July 10th she discussed her bill to improve benefits for American ex-prisoners of war (S. 517)
On June 30th, Murray discussed her healthcare priorities with a group of veterans in Walla Walla, Washington. Murray noted that in the Supplemental Appropriations bill, she helped secure $417 million for emergency spending for the VA's Medical Care Account. She also helped increase the funding authorization for the VA's homeland security and medical research efforts. In addition, Murray supports legislation to allow military service members, retirees and their dependents to enroll in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan.