Maloney Charges Bush’s VA Budget Denies Vets VA Health Care
Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, who has been fighting the Bush administration to block the closings of veterans hospitals, has released a new report which shows that 133,000 New York veterans would be denied Veterans Administration health care or be compelled to drop out of the VA system under President George W. Bush's proposed VA budget.
The president proposed a $28.9 billion budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs last February, $2.6 billion less than is required to meet the health care needs of veterans, Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) said.
Last June, administration officials conceded that the proposal was “insufficient,” the lawmaker added, confirming a $2.6 billion shortfall and sent Congress a supplemental budget request for an additional $1.97 billion. The administration also renewed its request that Congress raise more than $2 billion over the next five years for vets receiving VA health care.
But according to the new report, prepared by the House Committee On Government Reform Special Investigations Division, the president’s proposed budget would:
1. Deny care to hundreds of veterans in Maloney’s 14th Congressional District, which includes Astoria and parts of Long Island City, and continue to freeze VA enrollment for “Priority 8” veterans, preventing an estimated 40,000 vets in New York from enrolling to receive care, and an estimated 700 veterans in Maloney’s district from enrolling in the VA health care system.
2. Cost vets an average of $390 more per year for health care under the Bush plan, with many paying as much as $550 more, costing veterans in New York $42.5 million annually.
3. Leave an estimated 93,000 veterans in New York unable to pay the increased costs for VA health care proposed in the Bush budget, and forcing an estimated 1,600 veterans in Maloney’s district to drop their VA enrollment.
Commenting on the new findings of the proposed budget’s effects, Maloney declared: “Our nation’s commitment to the health and well-being of American veterans is wavering under the president’s administration. U.S. veterans fought and risked [their] lives to preserve our freedom and they should not be pushed out of the VA health care system that they so clearly deserve.
“I am glad that the House of Representatives passed a veterans’ budget that does better for veterans than what the president seemed willing to do. But even the House version of the budget is insufficient to meet the health needs of our veterans. I plan to fight to the end to maintain and strengthen the quality, affordable health care that America’s veterans were promised.”
Meanwhile, Maloney and other Queens congressmembers have been battling a Bush administration effort to close VA hospitals throughout the country, including the Manhattan VA hospital which is on East 23rd Street and is used by many Queens veterans. The VA proposal calls for merging the Manhattan facility with the VA hospital on the Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn.
There have been rumors that the Manhattan VA hospital is being eyed for closing because the property it rests on is far more valuable than the Brooklyn facility and available to be sold for a high price.