Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has faulted the White House for not adequately funding the Department of Veterans Affairs in the President’s fiscal 2005 budget request. “Funding VA at levels that do not even keep up with inflation is an example of how rhetoric and reality are two divergent things when it comes to this administration’s lack of commitment to our nation’s veterans,” he asserted. He added that the budget includes the following provisions that are harmful to the health care of our nation’s veterans:


Funding levels that fail to keep up with inflation, with an increase of only $500 million for VA health care, despite current wait times of up to a year for services.


Funding losses that will result in the elimination of 540 staff to process veterans’ benefit claims, despite current wait times of 147 days for claims to be processed and a backlog of 350,000 claims.


Attempting to force veterans out of the VA health care system by imposing a user fee of $250 on enrollees, as well as doubling the co-pays on prescription drugs for middle class veterans.


Redirecting $100 million in health care for returning service members, and using it to cover deep cuts in the veterans’ benefits budget.


Removing 4,000 veterans from nursing homes and cutting 3,000 medical staff, despite an increase of 100 percent in the number of veterans 85 and older over the last five years.