News Releases

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray, who led the fight in the Senate to increase funding for veterans health care both before and after the Administration admitted a $1 billion shortfall in funding for fiscal year 2005, today expressed disappointment in the level of funding included in the fiscal year 2006 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Conference Report.

The Conference Report, which passed the Senate today, includes $764 million less than the original Senate bill.

Murray statement:

“This bill ensures only bare bones funding for the VA. This funding level covers exactly what the Administration says it needs. But I’m hesitant to believe their calculations.

Just this year, we faced a situation in which bad planning and budgeting on the part of the VA led to a massive shortfall in VA healthcare funding.

I tried to tell the VA that this would happen, but they continued to ignore my appeals. Now I have lost faith in the Administration’s numbers. In June we learned they based their budget models off 2002 data, when we were not at war in Iraq. Because of this the VA was grossly unprepared to gauge growth in demand for its services and the number of Iraq veterans who would access care.

I’m afraid that eight months from now we will sit here and the VA will tell us that it underestimated the impact of Katrina, the number of veterans coming home from Iraq, the impact of the increased Guard and Reserve soldiers on the VA, the cost of providing care or any number of other factors which will lead to another shortfall. Any unforeseen demands and the VA will not have enough funding within this bill. And our veterans and their families will lose out.

When that happens, I will be the first one on the floor demanding that we provide adequate funding for the VA. Mark my words, this bill gives me every indication that 8 months from now, we will be right back where we were last June.

Last Friday was Veterans Day. A day to honor the sacrifices our soldiers have made when called upon to serve this country. When our government asks them to leave their families and go abroad to represent this country, we promise them we will do our part to care for them upon their return.

Caring for our veterans when they return home is a fundamental cost of war and it is far past time for this Administration make that cost and that care a priority.”