Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA) joined more than 200 of his colleagues in calling on President Bush to address the $1.3 billion deficit in this year’s Department of Veterans Affairs health care budget.  The group sent a letter to the President Wednesday, asking him to submit a request for emergency funding for FY2005, and to amend the FY2006 budget to alleviate next year’s budget shortfall as well.  Their action came after Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Nicholson admitted the deficit in a hearing Tuesday.


"This additional funding is urgently needed today to care for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the heroes from former conflicts who rely upon the VA for their health care,” wrote the Congressmen in their letter to the President.


Last Friday, the Washington Post reported that the Bush Administration acknowledged that it is short more than $1 billion for covering current needs at the Department of Veterans Affairs this year, despite repeated efforts by House Democrats to fund VA healthcare.  In response, the Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to give the VA an extra $1.5 billion this year to cover the health care shortfall.  But House Republicans today offered just $975 million, meaning additional work will have to be done to correct this serious problem. 


"VA medical centers across Greater Boston are simply unable to care for our veterans with the limited resources, staffing, and funding they have,” said Congressman Lynch.  "VA hospitals in New England have had to close their operating rooms and force their nurses to work double shifts.  We seem to find money in the budget for tax cuts, but there are no resources for the care of our veterans.  This flies in the face of the principle of shared sacrifice that has lifted this country to where we are today.  As a country, we must live up to our part of the bargain and support our veterans by providing the high-quality medical care they earned.”