News Releases

Murray Speaks Out For Record Increase in VA Funding

Sep 05 2007

Calls on colleagues to support bill that increases veterans spending by $3.6 billion over President's request Spending bill also includes $635 million investment in Washington state military facilities

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor in support of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MILCON/VA) Appropriations bill which is currently being debated by the Senate. The MILCON/VA bill sets record new spending levels for veterans at a time when benefits waiting lines, a lack of mental health care accessibility, and inadequate conditions at VA facilities show they are desperately needed. 

"After years of neglect, our government is again honoring our veterans’ sacrifices," Murray said on the Senate floor. "This bill takes into account the additional strains on the VA system that simultaneous wars and new battlefield realties present…It invests in improving health care, expanding mental health services, and constructing new facilities. It will mean more qualified health care workers, better prosthetics, and more accessible veteran's facilities."

The MILCON/VA bill also funds military construction projects nationwide and includes $635 million in improvements to Washington state facilities. To read more about the military funding for Washington state included in this bill visit HERE. 

Senator Muray is a member of the MILCON/VA Appropriations Subcommittee. 

Senator Murray's floor remarks follow:

Mr. President, In Iraq and Afghanistan, like so many conflicts before, our service members have done absolutely everything that has been asked of them. 

  • They have answered the President's call to war with the honor and sense of duty we have come to expect from our nation's bravest men and women.
  • They have performed under enormous pressure in the middle of a civil war,
  • They have left the loved ones that count on them behind, and
  • They continue to put their lives on the line every day.

Unfortunately, here at home, their commitment to serve us has not been met by an Administration committed to care for them. 

From poor conditions at VA facilities around the country, to a lack of PTSD counselors, to a benefit claims backlog that keeps veterans waiting for months and sometimes years - it is clear the Administration has failed to account for our nation’s veterans as a cost of this war. 

It is unacceptable that service members who fought overseas are returning home and being forced to fight their own government for the care and services they need.

Today we take a major step toward reversing this trend and the Bush Administration’s failure to care for our heroes. 

This Bill Invest In the Real Needs of Veterans

The funding for our veterans included in this bill is more than $3.6 billion over the President's request. 

After years of Bush Republicans cutting corners on caring for our heroes, we have put forth an honest assessment of what these men and women need.  

This bill takes into account the additional strains on the VA system that simultaneous wars and new battlefield realties present. 

And it is an investment that represents nearly all of the Independent Budget, a recommendation of the funds needed to care for our veterans, which is compiled by Veterans Service Organizations.   

It invests in improving health care, expanding mental health services, and constructing new facilities. 

It will mean more qualified health care workers, better prosthetics, and more accessible veteran's facilities. 

It will also mean thousands of new VA case workers to help reduce the unacceptable delays in receiving earned benefits, improved conditions at VA facilities, and an increased investment in Polytrauma and mental health facilities that will improve treatment for PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury and catastrophic injuries. 

Most of all though, this bill means that after years of neglect, our government is again honoring our veterans’ sacrifices. 

Examples of VA Failures from Field Hearing

Mr. President, this bill and all it provides couldn’t come at a more crucial time

As a member of both the Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for this bill and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I have heard first-hand about the VA's shortcomings in caring for our veterans. 

In fact, last month I held a Senate Veterans' Affairs field hearing in Tacoma, Washington to examine the challenges these men and women are facing.

At the hearing I spoke with Brandon Jacobs, a veteran of the Army and National Guard who served in Iraq.  He said that more must be done to raise awareness of PTSD, and combat related stresses. He talked about how we need to increase access not only for him and his fellow service members, but also for the many families that struggle when a loved one returns from war with an invisible wound. 

I also heard from Dan Purcell, an Iraq veteran who said he didn't "want to be treated as a tool that could be casually discarded when broken or found to be no longer useful." 

This bill finally takes the necessary steps to recognize Brandon, and Dan, and so many others as a cost of war. 

Military Construction

Mr. President, we also have to make sure that our troops are ready, and that they receive the training they need. 

That's why I'm so pleased with the military construction investments this bill makes across the country and particularly in my home state. 

Washington's military facilities play a critical role in our nation's security.  From Fort Lewis in Tacoma that is training the Stryker Brigades at the center of the fight in Iraq, to Fairchild Air Force base in Spokane that plays a major role in our air defense, to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island that patrols our Pacific shores. 

It is critical that these bases, which serve such vital roles, receive the funding they need.  

This bill does just that, providing more than $635 million in improvements for Washington military installations.

I'd like to thank Senators Reed and Hutchinson for their special attention and recognition of the needs of bases throughout Washington State. 

Their leadership on this bill has been outstanding.  

Conclusion

Mr. President, this bill recognizes that any time we invest in building our military and improving training for our troops, we also invest in their care.

George Washington once famously observed that -  

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country."

  This bill reverses President Bush’s failures and carry’s through on the commitment that our first President discussed. 

It keeps our military strong by honoring the sacrifices of our heroes with funding that meets their needs. 

It's also important to note that this bill is endorsed by the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, AMVETS, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America - among many others Veterans Service Organizations that fight for veterans every day. 

Mr. President, It's clear that a vote for this bill is a vote to right a ship that the Administration has steered off course. 

But above all it is a vote to keep faith with the brave men and women who serve us all. 

When those men and women first put on a uniform they earned the right to a government that provides the care they need. 

And when we approve this bill we will begin to renew that covenant.