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Senate Republicans Deny Veterans’ Health Care Emergency, Tell Veterans They Are Not a Priority

Apr 12 2005

Murray amendment would have avoided VA “train wreck” by providing $2 billion to pay for veterans’ healthcare

Murray's Floor Speech: Text | Audio | Video | Amendment Summary

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The Senate today rejected an amendment from Senator Patty Murray to provide $2 billion in funding for a critical cost of war – healthcare for America’s veterans, including those returning home from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Murray Amendment to the $80 billion supplemental funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was actually voted on and defeated twice, both by 54-46 votes with all but one Republican member of the Senate voting against the veterans’ funding.

Washington state has sent thousands of brave men and women to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan and now, a large group is returning home – including nearly 4,000 members of the National Guard. Murray has heard from servicemen and women, their families, and veterans around the state and nation about shortfalls in the system and the need to improve care for current and future veterans. But today, Republicans raised two procedural objections to the amendment and killed Murray's proposed funding.

"First Senate Republicans said that funding for veterans’ healthcare was not an emergency. Then they said it was not a priority. Our veterans, our military and our future recruits deserve better," Senator Murray said. "We send these brave men and women overseas to fight for us. They should not have to fight for the healthcare they've earned when they return home."

Murray attempted to fund veterans’ healthcare last month by using her position on the Senate Budget Committee to include increased funding in the Senate’s Budget Resolution for fiscal year 2006. The Republican majority on the Committee rejected that proposal, leaving Murray with today’s amendment as a final option to get veterans their much-needed and deserved healthcare.

“I am extremely disappointed that Republicans in the Senate have chosen to turn their backs on our veterans,” Murray said in response to the vote. “By denying the crisis at the VA, they are ignoring our responsibility to fully provide for the men and women who risk their lives for our freedom.”

Murray’s amendment would have enabled the VA to absorb the influx of new veterans and reverse critical budget shortfalls, while still maintaining the quality of care for current veterans. Murray’s amendment would have done this by:

  1. Providing $525 million for mental health care for returning veterans. A large portion of that money would go to help veterans with post traumatic stress disorder;

  2. Providing $610 million for our newest veterans – so they do not have to compete with existing veterans for health care; and

  3. Provides $40 million for every veterans regional network – so they can open new clinics and meet local needs. Today, most VA networks face a $40 million shortfall that hurts our veterans.

The Murray amendment attracted 14 Democratic co-sponsors and one Republican vote on the floor – from Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the former Chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. The amendment was also endorsed by six national veterans’ organizations: AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the American Legion.