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Senator Murray Calls for Veterans Budget that Meets The Real Needs

Apr 12 2007

Hearing on the Department of Veterans' Affairs FY 2008 Budget Request

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this important hearing on the FY 2008 budget for the Department of Veterans' Affairs. I want to welcome to VA Secretary Nicholson and the rest of the VA witnesses.



Mr. Secretary, nearly two months ago, you testified before the Senate Veteran's Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, on the FY 2008 VA budget. A lot has happened in those two months.



The world learned about the shocking conditions and bureaucratic nightmares at Walter Reed. I recognize that as a military hospital, Walter Reed does not fall under your jurisdiction, but it clearly raised questions about the VA's ability to care for the many returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.



We learned from an internal VA report of the many problems afflicting VA facilities across the country. And we learned from ABC news reporter Bob Woodruff how traumatic brain injury - the signature injury of this war - is impacting thousands of troops returning to the home and the VA's ability to care for them.



As all of these issues arose, Congress responded. The Senate passed a budget that provides the VA with $43.1 billion for FY 2008. That's $3.5 billion more than the President's budget and 98% of what the Independent Budget called for.



In addition, the Senate passed an emergency supplemental bill that provides $1.77 billion in directed funding for veterans healthcare and $2.5 billion in defense health spending. This funding will help the VA to better diagnose and treat the increasing number of TBI cases. It would better meet the needs of the estimated one-third of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have sought care at the VA for mental health problems.



Mr. Chairman, with our troops fighting overseas, with their tours being extended, it is up to all of us to make sure they don't have to fight for healthcare or benefits when they return home. The budget that the Senate passed and the Supplemental that the Senate passed ensure our veterans have what they need. Now Mr. Secretary, at a hearing two months ago, I submitted some questions for the record and I still have not received a response, so I'll be asking you some of those questions today, and I hope that in the future your responses will be more timely. As you know, we can't provide what our veterans need if we can not get accurate and timely answers from the VA.