Congressman Clyburn Denounces Budget Shortfall in Veterans Health Care

Jun 30, 2005 Issues: Health

(Washington, DC) - House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair James E. Clyburn (D-SC) today issued the following statement in response to the Republicans' admission that the Veterans Health Administration has a $1 billion shortfall, and Senate Republicans' scramble to rectify this embarrassing predicament.

            "It is no surprise to Democrats that the Veterans' Health Administration is no longer scheduling appointments for new veterans due to budgetary shortfalls.  We have been fighting for two years to adequately fund health care for our nation's veterans as demand for VA services continues to increase because of the war in Iraq.  At the same time this President was sending troops into battle, he and the Congressional leadership were cutting health services our troops would need and deserve on their return home. 

            "The political embarrassment of their actions forced Senate Republicans yesterday to increase funding for veterans' healthcare by $1.5 billion.  Still it is their earlier actions that speak to their true intent.  For two years they blocked repeated Democratic legislative efforts to increase funding for veterans' healthcare.  The House Republican leadership even unceremoniously ousted their top veterans issues advocate from his position as Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, so he could be replaced with someone his party believed would implement their plans to gut veterans services without question.

            "I represent a district with a significant veterans population.  My wife, Emily, worked in the Dorn VA Medical Center library for more than twenty-five years, and is one of the VA's staunchest advocates.  Emily's Uncle Joe is a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor and fortunately is still with us today.  It is difficult for me to explain to Emily, Uncle Joe and my constituents how our country can turn its back on our veterans at their time of greatest need. 

            "I have joined all 206 House Democrats and one independent in signing a letter to President Bush asking him to address the $1.3 billion shortfall in veterans' health care funding.  In his speech this week to turn around sagging support for the war in Iraq, the President didn't mention war veterans at all.  It is hard to bolster support for an unpopular war when this Administration is abandoning veterans, many of them wounded, when they come home. 

            "As we approach this July 4th, we should not only thank our soldiers for their brave efforts to protect the country we love, but we should insure that we are protecting them and upholding our commitment to them as they have upheld theirs to us.  As we celebrate our nation's independence on Monday, I ask that the President and the Congressional leadership to honor the call to fly the flag and honor our veterans by fully funding their benefits."


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