Thursday, June 30, 2005

About Time

When the Veteran's Administration announced earlier this week that the agency which provides health care for veterans would be in the red to the tune of at least one billion dollars this year, certain Republican officials hit the roof. Their assumption, of course, was that the VA had incompetently over-spent. The fact that in terms of real dollars, the VA had been one of the targets of cuts the last few federal budgets didn't enter into the conversation.

Apparently the Republican response didn't sit well with an important constituency: veterans. With a mid-term election coming up, and with falling poll numbers, a different tune was whistled in short order.

The Washington Post reported today that the Senate acted quickly:

The Senate, after a series of angry partisan exchanges, unanimously approved yesterday $1.5 billion in emergency funds for the Department of Veterans Affairs' health care programs. The action is the first step in what now appears to become a total increase of at least $2.5 billion in fiscal 2005 and 2006.

Three times in the recent past, Democrats had offered bills or amendments which would have increased the VA budget and each time the bills were defeated. The difference this time?

Virtually all veterans groups -- including the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars -- have complained bitterly that the administration and the Republican leadership have abandoned a commitment to treat VA health care as an integral "cost of war." John Furgess, commander in chief of the VFW, denounced Bush's spending proposals for the department as "especially shameful during a time of war."

Here, shamefully, is one of the reasons for the VA shortfall in the first place:

Nicholson told lawmakers Tuesday that the administration had vastly underestimated the number of service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who would seek VA medical treatment. The estimates had been based on outdated assumptions from 2002, he said.

Good grief! Can't this mal-administration get anything right?


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