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Murray Votes for Over $4 billion in Funding to Care for Wounded Veterans and Returning Iraq and Afghanistan Service Members

Mar 22 2007

$1.76 billion for veterans and $2.5 billion for DOD care included in Supplemental Appropriations bill

Murray says, "The days of ignoring our troops as a cost of this war are over."

-- UPDATE: This supplemental funding passed the full Senate on 3/29/07 --

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) voted to include over $4 billion for the care of veterans and active duty service members in the Fiscal Year 2007 Supplemental Appropriations bill. The funding includes $1.76 billion for veterans programs and $2.5 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) which will go toward the care of returning Iraq and Afghanistan service members. Senator Murray voted for the funding as part of the Supplemental Appropriations bill which was passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee today. The bill will now go to the full Senate.

"For the last four years the Bush administration has conducted this war with little regard for the tremendous strains it is placing on the VA, our veterans and their families. Today, we put an end to their neglect," said Senator Murray. "The days of ignoring our troops as a cost of this war are over."

In addition to being a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Murray is the fourth-ranking Democrat in the Senate leadership and a senior member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. Last year, Senator Murray fought to amend the Fiscal Year 2006 Supplemental Appropriations bill to included $430 million in funding for veterans. Unfortunately, that funding was eliminated during negotiations between the House and Senate.

The Supplemental Appropriations bill passed today includes funding for the two government agencies responsible for the care or returning soldiers - The Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran's Affairs. Senator Murray has been working for a system that provides not only quality care at both agencies but also a seamless transition between the two.

"This bill ensures that the lessons of Walter Reed are not forgotten," Murray said. "When our troops get back from oversees we need to guarantee that they are given first class care."

$1.76 Billion for Veterans

The Supplemental Appropriations bill that was passed today includes $1.76 billion that will go towards veterans programs. The president included no funding for veterans care in his Supplemental Appropriations bill request.

The priorities that funding will go toward include:

  • $82.8 million for VA polytrauma centers/TBI treatment - This funding will be utilized to treat the influx of TBI patients at VA facilities throughout the country. TBI has emerged as the signature wound of the Iraq conflict in large part due to service member's exposure to IED explosions. TBI can often be an unseen wound and the VA has struggled to properly diagnose and treat the increasing number of TBI cases.

  • $150 million for Mental Health/Substance Abuse/Readjustment Counseling - A large portion of this funding ($100 million) will go toward targeting areas where VA mental health care is lacking. Additional funding will go toward building capacity at inpatient and outpatient substance abuse programs and opening new VA Vet Centers.

  • $201 million for Iraq and Afghanistan Vets - This funding will be specifically targeted to care for Iraq and Afghanistan vets whose numbers have been underestimated by the VA.

  • $845 million to the Veterans Health Administration - This funding will ensure efficient management and medical facilities for VA healthcare system. This funding is particularly necessary given the recent internal VA audit that cited 1,100 VA facility issues including leaky roofs, deteriorating walls, and mold. (More Details)

  • $46 million for the Veterans Benefits Administration - This funding is badly needed to hire and train up to 400 new VA claims processors to address the growing backlog of benefits claims.

  • $355.9 million for minor construction projects

  • $30 million for medical and prosthetic research

  • $36.1 million for information technology

$2.5 Billion for Department of Defense Health Programs

The Supplemental Appropriations bill also includes $2.5 billion for the Department of Defense to be used for the care of returning Iraq and Afghanistan service members. That total is $1.3 billion over the President's request.

The priorities the DoD funding will go toward include:

  • $740 million in uncovered and unbudgeted fees

  • $500 million to eliminate "efficiency wedge" savings and reinvest in military hospitals.

  • $20 million to repair facilities at Walter Reed

  • $100 million for TBI and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment and research.