To the Readers' Forum:
As a citizen and 100 percent service connected disabled veteran living in New York, I am writing to encourage our lawmakers to increase federal funding for veterans health care programs for fiscal year 2013. Although the administration proposed an increase in overall funding for the Veterans Health Administration, that increase is still at least $1.5 billion less than DAV and The Independent Budget recommend as necessary to provide comprehensive health care to our nation's veterans.
On May 31, by a vote of 407-12, the House passed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill. The bill includes a measure that would boost suicide prevention and homeless assistance funds for veterans It would also provide $71.7 billion in discretionary funding for veterans' benefits about four percent above the FY 2012 level, but $1.5 billion less than The Independent Budget recommendation.
Failure to provide adequate funding could have negative effects on VA's myriad programs, including its crucial mental health programs, health programs in general, biomedical and prosthetic research, health care construction projects, and other vital needs. With the United States having deployed more than two million individuals to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, the next several years are going to be critical for them as they transition home and begin to rely on the VA health care system.
It is imperative that Congress and the administration work together to ensure that funding is sufficient at a time when we are receiving continuing reports that the needs of many of our veterans are going unmet. At a hearing in the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee on April 24, it was reported that VA is failing to fully meet its responsibilities to some veterans challenged by mental health problems, especially those dealing with post-deployment and readjustment needs, in significant part due to insufficient funding.
The VA must be adequately funded for fiscal year 2013 to at least the level recommended by The Independent Budget (www.independentbudget.org), a minimum of $1.5 billion more for medical services.
We must ensure that the VA receives a budget that is sufficient to meet its many challenges in caring for over six million veterans, and all those new veterans who will be seeking care in the coming years.
I realize there must be budget cuts and reduced spending in order to get the nations debt reduced but it should not be done on the backs of those who have already sacrificed so much for our country.