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Veteran's Medical Issues
Legislation to Fund Veterans Health Care

(Press release provided courtesy of House Veterans Committee)

Washington, DC, May 29, 2003 -- Congressman Lane Evans (D-IL) announced that he will introduce legislation to create guaranteed funding for veterans' health care. Evans, Ranking Democrat on the U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, told a group of Western Illinois veterans last night that he plans to introduce the 'Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act of 2003' "in the next few days."

The news of the bill's imminent introduction in the House of Representatives has been eagerly anticipated by veterans service organizations, including The American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, who have made mandatory funding their top legislative priority.

Last year, H.R. 5250, the "Veterans Health Care Funding Guarantee Act of 2002," which was cosponsored by Evans, had broad-based support with a total of 129 cosponsors. In addition to Evans' pending legislation, this year there are two Senate bills (S. 19 and S. 50) that address guaranteed funding for veterans health care.

Evans' bill would replace the current "discretionary" funding process with a predictable and rational means of funding the VA health care system based on growth in the veterans' beneficiary population and the same inflation rate other hospital systems expect to experience.

"Every year," said Evans, "veterans' health care needs are pitted against whatever other priorities the Administration and Congress put forth, whether tax cuts for wealthier Americans or funding for the International Space Center. Most federal health care programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and TRICARE for Life are not subject to this same process because their growth is calculated based on expected costs and funded accordingly. Veterans deserve no less consideration," Evans continued.

Evans said that Vietnam Veterans of America had identified almost a $6 billion gap between the funding VA might have requested for FY 2004 had the budget grown with national health spending and the beneficiary population ($36 billion) and the discretionary spending level for veterans programs Congress approved in the joint budget resolution ($30 billion). He said the impact of this deficit has been manifested in waiting lines for care, failures to maintain VA's substance abuse treatment and mental health programs, and inadequate long-term care services to veterans.

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