Senator Murray Fights for Veterans, But Republicans Say No

Mar 09 2006

Republican Senators Defeat Murray's Effort to Boost Funding for Veterans Healthcare, Transition Assistance and Mental Healthcare

Republicans Vote to Raise Fees and Co-Payments on America's Veterans

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, eleven Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee blocked an effort by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) to protect veterans from harmful new fees and co-payments and to boost the federal investment in veterans’ care and services. Murray's amendment, which would have increased funding for veterans healthcare by $1.5 billion, was defeated on an 11-9 party-line vote.

"When soldiers sign up to serve we don’t tell them their benefits are based on their future income; but that’s exactly what this budget does,” Senator Murray said. “It's disappointing that Senate Republicans have endorsed a White House plan that increases barriers to care rather than fulfilling a solemn promise to care for those who have served us."

Last month, President Bush submitted a Fiscal Year 2007 budget proposal that included increased fees and co-pays meant to dissuade veterans from accessing VA care. In fact, according to the VA, the President’s plan would discourage more than 200,000 veterans from accessing care and would discourage another 1.1 million from enrolling in the VA healthcare system at all.

This week, Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee offered a budget proposal that largely mirrors the President's misguided request.

Murray's amendment would have addressed some of the biggest challenges facing America's veterans including transition assistance for Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans and increased assistance for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health challenges.

Specifically, Murray's amendment would:

  • Help more Iraq War veterans make the transition home by providing $231 million for transition assistance.

  • Increase Support for PTSD and Mental Healthcare by providing an additional $321 million. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 35 percent of Iraq veterans received mental health care during their first year home.

  • Expand Veteran Support Clinics by providing $81 million to expand Vet Centers around the country to provide daily support and assistance to veterans.

  • Eliminate new Fees and Co-Payments. Murray's amendment would provide $825 million to roll back a Bush Administration plan to raise fees and co-payments on veterans who seek VA healthcare.

  • Support Rehabilitation by providing $42 million to expand residential rehabilitation services for veterans.

“I will continue to fight to protect our veterans and to increase access to care and benefits,” Murray said after the vote.

Murray's amendment would be funded by closing corporate tax loopholes. The FY 2007 Senate Budget Resolution is expected to move from the Budget Committee to the Senate floor next week.

Yesterday, the Jewish War Veterans named Senator Murray its legislator of the year for her work supporting America's veterans.


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