WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Patty Murray today supported $36.6 billion in spending for the Veterans Affairs Department in FY2006, a significant increase over both last year's spending and the President's request for FY2006. After Senator Murray helped expose a massive shortfall in VA funding for both this year and next, senators on both sides of the aisle agreed to support $1.977 billion in emergency spending for FY2006 to meet the newly uncovered need.
The funding passed the Senate Military Construction – VA Appropriations Subcommittee today and will now go on to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for approval.
"Taking care of our veterans must be a top priority in Congress. With this agreement today, we're telling veterans of all ages that the VA will be there for them in the years to come," Senator Murray said. "I will continue to monitor VA spending in the months to come to ensure that they have the money they need to provide the quality service our veterans deserve."
Despite Murray’s repeated warnings that the VA was headed for a “train wreck” if Congress did not increase health care funding, the Administration and VA Secretary Nicholson repeatedly insisted that the funding was not needed. Just weeks ago, the VA finally conceded by announcing they are billions of dollars short for both this year and next.
In addition to the new funding for FY2006, the budget makes other improvements for veterans as well. The bill does not include proposed fee increases on veterans or increased pharmacy co-pays requested in the President's budget. In addition, it rejects proposed changes to long-term care requirements.
Murray continues to fight for emergency spending for the remaining months of FY2005. On the Senate floor Monday, Democrats once again affirmed their position in support of $1.5 billion in funding to meet this pressing need.
"We've said it plenty of times – now it's time to act. The Senate, House and Administration must come together to get this funding to our veterans now," Murray said.