News Releases

Timeline of Senator Murray’s Efforts to Pay for Veterans’ Health Care

Jun 23 2005

Senator repeatedly warned of impending VA “train wreck”

6/29/05 - Update: Murray Declares Senate Victory for America's Veterans

VA Announces $1 Billion Shortfall; Senator Murray Demands Immediate Action


1/14/05 - Murray sends letter with 32 Democrats calling on President Bush to make veterans’ funding a priority in his FY06 budget

“With tens of thousands of servicemembers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom will return home this year, each of us has a responsibility to ensure that the VA health care system receives full appropriated funding – without reliance on increasing out-of –pocket fees to veterans.”

1/26/05 - Murray announces she will introduce amendment to $80 billion Emergency Supplemental to fully fund veterans’ health care.

“I will offer an amendment to the President’s supplemental request to fully fund health care services and benefits for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and those who have served us so bravely in the past.

No one can predict how long our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will last. But we do know that more soldiers are being called to duty and that today’s soldiers are tomorrow’s veterans. We must all support our troops — both while they are serving and after they return home.”

2/2/05 - Murray criticizes President’s State of the Union Address for making only passing mention of veterans

“I am disappointed that tonight, he made only passing reference to caring for our nation’s veterans. I am very concerned that with tens of thousands of brave men and women serving us heroically overseas – many of whom will return home this year – the President is submitting a budget that will mean longer lines and more out-of-pocket costs for veterans at our VA hospitals. Supporting our troops also means keeping our commitment to care for them when they return home.”

2/8/05 - Murray slams Bush budget for not properly funding VA care

“The VA health care system simply cannot provide quality care at the President’s requested funding level. The President’s budget means longer lines and more out-of-pocket costs for veterans in Washington state.”

2/10/05 - Murray gives floor speech on cuts to the VA

“If this budget – and its misguided proposals – were enacted, it would devastate VA health care. Payroll and inflation increases for doctors, nurses, and medications cost more than $1 billion, but the President has proposed to give VA only half of what is needed.”

2/15/05 - Murray questions VA Secretary Nicholson at Committee hearing

Senator Murray: We know that the Independent Budget has called for a three and a half billion dollar increase for FY06. Tell me what you really think, in terms of this budget. Does it meet our needs or is the Independent Budget closer to what we really need?

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson: No, Senator. We spend a lot of time going over this, and of course asking these experts a lot of questions. I have many of the same concerns, and I end up being satisfied that we can get the job done with this budget.

2/16/05 - Murray questions Rumsfeld on adequacy of VA budget

"The supplemental that is in front of us is to cover the cost of war, and I will tell you, there’s not one dime in it. Now, I have to tell you, I’m a member of the veterans committee, the VA secretary was in front of us yesterday, I asked him these questions, he couldn’t provide me with an answer."

"When I ask you, you tell me you’re the Secretary of Defense, you can’t answer me. Well, I want to know who I’m supposed to ask."

3/10/05 - Murray introduces amendment to the Senate Budget Committee Resolution to fully fund the cost of veterans’ health care.
“The responsible thing to do was to include adequate funding for the VA within the budget resolution. Unfortunately, the majority said no. I will continue to work to fully fund veterans’ health care through the Supplemental bill on the floor of the Senate. With a new generation of combat veterans deployed around the world, the federal government must meet its obligations to our veterans rather than look away in favor of other priorities.”

3/10/05 - Murray’s amendment, which would have increased funding for the VA by $2.85 billion – just three percent over last year’s funding levels – is rejected by the Republican majority on the Senate Budget Committee.

3/15/05 - Murray offers floor amendment to Budget Resolution

“I want every Senator to know that how you vote on this amendment is a test of how committed you are to helping America's veterans. With this vote, we're going to find out – Who's serious about helping our veterans and who's just talking. With this vote, every Senator will have to announce publicly – whether they're making life better for veterans or whether they're making excuses.”

3/16/05 - Murray amendment is defeated 47-53

“Today, members of the U.S. Senate had a choice. They could choose to keep the promise to our nation’s veterans and make them a priority in this budget, or they could turn their backs. I am disappointed to say that the majority party made the wrong choice,” Senator Murray said.

4/12/05 - Murray offers floor amendment to Emergency Supplemental

“I am very concerned that when all of these new veterans come home and need medical care they're going to be pushed into a VA system that doesn't have the medical staff, facilities, or funding to take care of them.

There is a train wreck coming in veterans’ healthcare, and I'm offering an amendment to deal with this emergency now – before it turns into a crisis.”

4/12/05 - Administration, Republicans say Senate funding is unnecessary

“Whenever trends indicate the need for refocusing priorities, VA’s leaders ensure prudent use of reserve funding for these purposes. That is just simply part of good management…I can assure you that VA does not need emergency supplemental funds in FY2005 to continue to provide the timely, quality service that is always our goal…but certainly for the remainder of this year, I do not foresee any challenges that are not solvable within our own management decision capability.”

– Letter from VA Sec. Nicholson to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (used on the floor of the Senate by Republicans to bolster their argument)

4/12/05 - Murray amendment is defeated– twice 54-46

"First Senate Republicans said that funding for veterans’ healthcare was not an emergency. Then they said it was not a priority. Our veterans, our military and our future recruits deserve better. We send these brave men and women overseas to fight for us. They should not have to fight for the healthcare they've earned when they return home."

4/28/05 - Murray gives floor speech on Senate Budget

“Mr. President, I am extremely disappointed that Republicans in the Senate have chosen to turn their backs on our veterans. By denying the crisis at the VA, they are ignoring our responsibility to fully provide for the men and women who risk their lives for our freedom.

Now, the Republicans say that we can take care of the needs of our veterans through the appropriations process. Well, I’m telling you, that with this budget before us today, there will not be enough money to take care of our veterans through appropriations alone. They will be competing with our military bases and other critical needs for precious few funds.”

5/10/05 - Supplemental passes 100-0

“I am extremely disappointed that Republicans in the Senate have decided that funding for veterans’ healthcare is not an emergency and not a priority. By denying the crisis at the VA, they are ignoring our responsibility to fully provide for the men and women who are risking their lives for our freedom. Our veterans, our military and our future recruits deserve better.”

6/9/05 - Murray questions Nicholson about funding for mental health care

“Over the past month I have met with guardsmen and reserves in Washington state who have recently returned from Iraq. Many of them have commented on the need for increased resources for mental health, especially in the area of PTSD. It is vital that we provide the resources to them and the VA to help them easily integrate back into their communities and prevent the development of long-term psychological and health damage.

As you know, Mr. Secretary, I supported funding for this and other needs as part of my veterans funding amendment to the Fiscal Year 2005 Supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan. An amendment you opposed. I am concerned that this committee is going to move forward with needed VA programs just to have the administration underfund the VA by billions of dollars limiting the ability for veterans to ever access these programs.”

6/9/05 - Murray Urges Senate to Improve Mental Health Care for Veterans

“Caring for the mental health needs of our veterans is about American values. If we value the strength of our families, the strength of our economy and the promises we have made to our military, then we must pass this amendment and give our veterans the care they deserve.”

6/23/05 - VA Announces $1 Billion Shortfall; Senator Murray Demands Immediate Action

"Caring for the veterans who have sacrificed for our freedom is the duty of a grateful nation. These brave men and women made a solemn promise to protect our country."

"Our reciprocal promise is to take care of them when they return home from their missions. That is why I find today's admission by the VA that they will need an estimated $1 billion more in emergency funding just to get through fiscal year 2005 appalling, but not surprising."

6/27/05 - Murray Sends Letter to President Asking Him to Address VA Shortfall in Tuesday Address to Nation

“Mr. President, we urge you to provide the American people with a full accounting of the cost of these conflicts, including the cost of caring for our veterans upon their return home, during your Tuesday evening address. We ask that you directly share with the nation how your administration will make up the VA's current FY 2005 budget shortfall of $1 billion, as well as the looming shortfall projected for the future. And, we stand ready to work with you to pass an emergency spending bill to address this shortfall before the July 4th Congressional recess.”

6/28/05 - Statement by Senator Murray on President’s Speech to the Nation

“Like all Americans, I am proud of the courage and dedication of our men and women in uniform. I join the President in his praise of the sacrifice they have made to protect our freedom. We all owe our troops a debt of gratitude for their service and heroism."

But we owe our troops more than just words and photo-ops. We owe them the security of knowing that we will provide them with the care and benefits they both need and deserve when they return home."

6/28/05 - Murray Introduces Amendment to Interior Bill to Cover VA Shortfall

“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."

6/29/05 - Murray Declares Victory for America’s Veterans in Senate

“Today, the Senate stands in full support of our soldiers from previous conflicts as well as those who are serving us today. It’s a powerful message and one that I am very proud to be a part of,” Murray said.