Congressman Stephen F. Lynch today called on Democrats and Republicans in the Congress to reject the cuts in funding for veterans health care that President Bush has recommended in his budget.  Lynch said that the cuts, which include doubling the co-payments for prescriptions and imposing new fees on veterans, would set a dangerous precedent and prevent thousands of veterans from getting the care they need.

Congressman Lynch said, "I can’t understand how the President can continue to advocate tax cuts for the rich and yet he will not stand with veterans who have made enormous sacrifices for this country.  Just five days ago in his State of the Union Address, President Bush praised our service men and women for their honor, courage and service.  He said that ‘this grateful country will do everything we can to help them recover.’  Today the President told those same men and women that their health care was not a priority in his budget and broke our promise to millions of American veterans.”

Lynch was responding to the submission of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget request for fiscal year 2006, which begins this October.  The President's funding requests for all federal agencies will now be considered by Congress.

The President’s budget raises health care costs for hundreds of thousands of veterans, raising the co-payment on prescription drugs from $7 to $15 for a 30-day supply and requires veterans to pay a new $250 fee to access the VA medical system.  Veterans continue to wait up to 8 to 10 months for a doctor’s appointment at the VA.

"As America prepares to welcome a new generation of veterans home from Iraq and Afghanistan, it shortchanges veterans' health care programs, providing about $2 billion less than veterans service organizations believe is needed," said Lynch.  He added that the President’s budget once again fails to repeal the Disabled Veterans Tax, which forces disabled military retirees to give up one dollar of their pension for every dollar of disability pay they receive.  

According to Congressman Lynch, who serves on the Government Reform Subcommittee that oversees the VA, "These cuts will leave the VA unprepared to care for the growing number of veterans in this country.  They will mean fewer doctors, fewer nurses, fewer therapists and staff which means longer waiting lists for appointments, and thousands of veterans who won't have access to the health care they deserve.  The VA is not an entitlement program.  These men and women who have put the uniform on their back and their lives on the line have earned these benefits.  We have the responsibility to ensure that the United States lives up to the promise it made to every service man and woman and gives the VA the tools they need to help our injured veterans to recover and allow them to live their lives with dignity.”

Meanwhile, Congressman Lynch has also introduced legislation to make it easier for veterans to purchase prescription drugs from the VA and another bill to help VA hospitals to recruit and retain high quality nurses and medical staffs.  Additionally, he is working on a proposal to improve the care for the high number of amputees returning from Iraq which includes additional funds for the research and manufacture of prosthetics for amputees.