Video of Murray's Floor Statement

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, following her heated questioning of VA Secretary Jim Nicholson about why his agency is “unexpectedly” facing a $1 billion budget shortfall, Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) spoke on the floor of the Senate to introduce her amendment to provide $1.42 billion to fix the problem. Murray, who introduced the amendment with Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), tried three times to increase funding for the VA within both the budget and Emergency War Supplemental, but her efforts were rejected on party-line votes.

“The VA’s announcement is surprising to some, but it should be appalling to everyone,” Murray said on the floor today. “It would be easy to say ‘I told you so,’ but that’s not going to solve the problem. We have a big problem and we need to address it now. I believe the best and most important way we can do that quickly is through an emergency supplemental bill that is passed through the House and Senate to get the VA the money they need to serve our veterans.”

The Murray/Byrd amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill provides the following funding to cover the VA’s shortfall for 2005:

  • $400 million to replace “carry over” funds

  • $600 million to reimburse VA construction accounts that have been raided to pay for health care costs

  • $420 million to compensate each Veterans Integrated Service Network, or VISN, for the additional expenses incurred because of the high caseload of wounded veterans

Despite Murray’s repeated warnings that the VA was headed for a “train wreck” if Congress did not increase health care funding, the Administration and VA Secretary Nicholson repeatedly insisted that the funding was not needed. Last Thursday, the VA announced a shortfall of $1 billion for fiscal year 2005.

“It would be wrong of this country to tell those members who served us so well that there are no services for them when they come home. We have a responsibility – not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans to be there for them, and the most responsible way to do this is through this emergency supplemental amendment,” Murray said.

Full text of the Murray/Byrd amendment