(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – In the wake of Senate passage of a Supplemental spending bill which was stripped of an amendment to include funding for veterans' health care and a recent security breach at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) which could compromise the personal information of 26.5 million veterans and active military personnel, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today introduced stand alone emergency funding legislation to provide the VA with additional federal dollars to care for our veterans.

"The bottom line is that too many of our veterans are going without the care they need, they deserve, and they have earned as part of their service," Senator Murray said. "Every indication is that the VA simply doesn't have enough funding for our current services coupled with returning veterans and the responsibility of assisting 26.5 million people with the VA's security breach."

Murray's legislation will provide the necessary funding in four crucial areas:

  • $80 million for Readjustment Counseling. This funding would go toward Vet Centers, which provide critical outreach services for our returning service members. Vet Center workload has doubled in the first quarter of this year alone, and this funding would help to reduce significant budget strain.

  • $168 million for implementation of the VA's own comprehensive mental health plan. This will provide much needed help for veterans who require more treatment than what can be provided in the Vet Center setting. This funding will have a particular impact on treatment for issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

  • $182 million to cover shortfalls this year. This funding will help cover general deficiencies in VA healthcare services brought about by the increased demands of returning Iraq and Afghanistan military personnel.

  • $70 million to cover the initial data theft response. This emergency funding will ensure that the initial response funding does not come out of VA healthcare and benefits accounts.

Throughout the budget and supplemental appropriations process, Murray fought to increase funding to care for our nation's veterans. She used her position on the Budget Committee, the Appropriations Committee, and the Veterans Affairs' Committee to try to provide adequate funding for our veterans, and she introduced an amendment to the Supplemental bill to provide adequate care for service members by assuring access to quality health care services and benefits when they return home.

The amendment was not included in the final version of the supplemental legislation which was passed in the Senate last Thursday. This new legislation seeks to remediate the funding lapses in the supplemental legislation, and includes important funding which will cover the initial costs of the VA's response to the recent data theft.

"To leave out veterans funding from the emergency supplemental spending bill was a particularly telling sign of the priorities of this Administration and the Republican Senate leadership," added Murray "When providing emergency funding to our brave service members to continue the war in Iraq it should be an equally pressing emergency to provide for their care after their service. This legislation will provide the money necessary to make veterans care a top priority once again."