(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) helped pass legislation that makes all veterans eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare through the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. The legislation, S.1233 - The Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injury and Other Health Programs Improvement Act, includes a Murray-sponsored provision that restores care to Priority 8 veterans - whose VA health care eligibility was cut off four years ago by the Bush administration. Priority 8 veterans are those veterans with non-service-connected disabilities whose income is above a modest level that varies across the country.
"This bill restores the promise we make to all veterans when they sign up to serve," said Senator Murray. "It says that regardless of how much money you make or when your health declined, you will be entitled to VA medical care."
"This legislation will reverse the administration's flawed decision four years ago to close the doors of the VA to Priority 8 veterans. I believe that changing the rules on these veterans after their service is just plain wrong. My bill will ensure that Priority 8 veterans are no longer treated as second class citizens in the eyes of the VA."
On January 24th, 2003 the Bush administration announced that health care enrollment for new Priority Group 8 veterans would be suspended in order to reduce the backlog and alleviate a longstanding funding crisis within the VA.
Since Democrats assumed control of the Congress in January, Senator Murray has helped to lead the effort to make funding veterans care a top priority. As the second ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, she helped to include a $3.5 billion increase over the President's budget for veterans funding in the 2008 Budget Resolution. As a member of the Senate leadership, Murray helped to add $1.78 billion for veterans care in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill which was signed into law last month. And just last week, Murray used her seat on the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MILCON-VA) Appropriations Subcommittee to deliver a $3.6 billion increase in VA spending for 2008.
In addition to allowing the VA to meet the needs of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the recent increases in funding will also help reopen the VA to Priority 8 veterans.
According to a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, the VA estimates that if the enrollment freeze was lifted, approximately 273,000 Priority 8 veterans would have been eligible to receive medical care from VA in FY2006, and 242,000 Priority 8 veterans would be eligible in FY2007.
OTHER IMPORTANT MURRAY VETERANS PROVISIONS PASSED TODAY:
Today, Senator Murray also included the following provision in S. 1315, The Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 which passed the Veterans Affairs' Committee.
- A provision requiring an Institute of Medicine (IOM) study of the connection between Gulf War service and Multiple Sclerosis, among other things.
- A provision adding Osteoporosis as a presumptive disability for former-POWs with PTSD
All legislation passed today in the Veterans' Affairs Committee will now move to the full Senate for consideration.