News Releases

Veterans: Murray Introduces Bill to Bring Veterans Back into VA Healthcare System

Apr 18 2007

Under bill, 242,000 veterans whose VA enrollment was cut off by the Bush Administration would again be eligible for care

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced the Honor Our Commitment to Veterans Act, which would allow new Priority 8 veterans to enroll in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system. Priority 8 veterans are those veterans with non-service-connected disabilities whose income is above a modest level that varies across the country. More than four years ago, the Bush administration cut off all Priority 8 veterans' access to the VA healthcare system. Senator Murray's bill would reverse that decision.

"This bill makes our promise to care for those Americans who sign up to serve whole again," said Senator Murray. "When it comes to veterans' healthcare, caveats and exceptions are not acceptable."

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.

"Instead of confronting the VA's shortfall head on by asking for the resources necessary to address them, this administration cut off care to veterans of modest means," Murray said. "This bill will correct that injustice. It will ensure that the veterans who are fighting our wars do not have to return home to fight for the healthcare they deserve."

While the income level for Priority 8 veterans varies, some veterans who are no longer allowed to enroll have annual incomes as low as $26,902. See table that details income eligibility levels in all of Washington state's counties.

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.

Senator Murray, who is a senior member of the Senate Veterans Committee, has been working for a comprehensive approach to fixing VA funding shortfalls and providing veterans with the healthcare options they deserve.

"There is no doubt that the VA has problems," Murray added. "Nearly five years into this war, our veterans are facing lengthy waits for benefits and continue to have trouble accessing critical mental health services. These are real problems that deserve real solutions. Instead, this administration has left veterans out in the cold at a time when more of them are accessing VA healthcare then ever before.

Companion legislation to Senator Murray's has been introduced in the House by Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey.