"It is not too late for the Senate to begin to actually address the critical issues that face this country," said Senator Murray. "I have veterans asking what we are doing about giving them better access to heath care, and parents asking about the difficulties they face in sending their kids to college. It is high time we start focusing on their concerns and start moving the country forward. We cannot afford to spend any more time on the divisive issues that the leadership continues putting forth for purely political reasons."
During the event, the nine Senators introduced a "Checklist for Change" featuring nine challenges that Congress should take up. The checklist was also prominently featured in a letter the women sent to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
The checklist of priorities includes:
- Safeguarding America's pensions,
- Keeping good jobs in America,
- Making college Affordable for all,
- Protecting America and its military families,
- Preparing for future disasters,
- Making America energy independent,
- Making small business healthcare affordable,
- Investing in life saving science, and
- Protecting our, land, air and water.
Senator Murray focused her remarks on protecting America's veterans...
"Our military men and women and their families are sacrificing every day for all of us," added Senator Murray. "But on this issue, the GOP leadership has failed miserably."
"Today, we challenge the Republican leadership to demand a real budget from the VA, including the real cost of caring for our veterans. Caring for our veterans is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it’s an American issue."
Senator Murray's Full Remarks During the Announcement Follow:
Our military men and women and their families are sacrificing every day for all of us. We must honor that sacrifice be it with jobs, training, support or healthcare, but on this issue, the GOP leadership has failed miserably.
Today, the VA is seeing 38 percent more Iraq War veterans than they budgeted for. Those veterans are waiting over a year to get the specialty care they deserve. In Seattle alone, we have VA medical centers with over 2000 veterans on waiting lists to get an initial doctors' appointment. Some are waiting over 18 months just to get their benefits.
Iraq War vets are coming home, losing their jobs, not getting medical care, living without benefits, and struggling to just get by. Recently, a VA undersecretary noted that some VA clinics don't provide mental health care, or if they do "waiting lists render that care virtually inaccessible." Service members, veterans and their families deserve more than waiting lists and "virtually inaccessible" care.
We all voted to make 2006 the year of transition in Iraq. I hope it is a year of change for our veterans and military families as well. I was disappointed that my amendment for emergency funding for the VA was stripped from the supplemental bill. That's why, on Monday, I introduced the amendment again as stand alone legislation and included needed dollars to cover the initial cost of helping the VA deal with its data theft. Our veterans should not face a double whammy with the VA using already scarce healthcare dollars to pay for this breach.
Our service men and women deserve a new direction. So, today, we challenge the Republican leadership to demand a real budget from the VA, including the real cost of caring for our veterans and to do right by our veterans and military families by holding hearings on the holes in transition assistance and mental health programs.
Caring for our veterans is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it’s an American issue.
We call on this Congress to do the most patriotic thing we can do, fulfill our promise to care for America’s veterans and military families.