President Bush spoke to the American Legion today, claiming that “support of our veterans has been a high priority in my administration,” and that one of his priorities is “making sure that our veterans have got good, decent, quality healthcare.”
President Bush should save his rhetoric. In an interview with National Public Radio, even American Legion National Commander Paul Morin, a regular political ally of the White House, pointed out that Bush has consistently skimped on veterans funding. “We are not pleased with the budget for the military and for the VA hospitals for our veterans,” Morin said. “I blame the President and Congress for insufficient funding of the VA health care system.”
A look at the facts back up Morin’s claims about Bush’s short-changing of veterans:
Bush plans to cut veterans health care after 2008. “The Bush administration plans to cut funding for veterans’ health care two years from now — even as badly wounded troops returning from Iraq could overwhelm the system. … Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing rapidly — by more than 10 percent in many years — White House budget documents assume consecutive cutbacks in 2009 and 2010 and a freeze thereafter.”
Bush raises health care costs for veterans. For the fifth year in a row, Bush’s budget has attempted to raise health care costs on 1.3 million veterans, calling for “new enrollment fees and higher drug co-payments for some veterans.”
Bush administration has claimed veterans benefits are “hurtful” to national security. In 2005, the Wall Street Journal noted the growing cost of veterans benefits due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon’s response was to complain that it would “rather use [the funds] to help troops fighting today.” “The amounts have gotten to the point where they are hurtful. They are taking away from the nation’s ability to defend itself,” says David Chu, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness.
The support of our veterans has been a high priority in my administration. This year I’ve asked Congress for more than $86 billion for veterans services. If Congress approves my request, this would amount to a 77 percent increase of the budgets since I took office. It would be the highest level of support for our veterans in American history.
We share with your concern about making sure our vets have good healthcare. I’ve talked to your commanders, past. I suspect I’ll be talking to your commanders, future, about making sure that our veterans have got good, decent, quality healthcare.
Since 2001 we’ve helped over one million more veterans. Added a million veterans. Take advantage of the VA healthcare system. The 2008 budget proposal will increase the VA healthcare budget by 83 percent since I took office.
NPR: Are you going to try to push for more money for veterans care than the President has requested in his budget?
MORIN: Yeah, the President requested $36.6 billion for medical care. We recommended $38.4 billion.
NPR: Are you going to talk with the President about that when you speak to him?
MORIN: We have talked with the President. We have notified him that we are not pleased with the budget for the military and for the VA hospitals for our veterans.
NPR: You spoke just a minute ago about having long experience in doing battle with the VA. And it might be surprising for a lot of people to hear. The thinking might be that five years into two wars, the VA would be doing all it could. Where is the problem? Who do you blame?
MORIN: I blame the President and Congress for insufficient funding of the VA health care system.