Veterans Salute President Obama on Funding for VA

Fix VA Program from Veterans for Common SenseLegion cites administration ‘accessibility’

by Kara Rowland

April 29, 2010 (Washington Times) – President Obama is struggling to fulfill campaign promises to pass energy and immigration measures, but he’s poised to notch another victory for a stump-speech vow: to make sure veterans’ funding isn’t held hostage to the government’s bad finances.

While watchdogs caution there’s still a long list of problems for veterans, all sides agree the President Obama has made big strides on promises he made in 2008 when competing for military votes against Republican nominee and Vietnam veteran Sen. John McCain – to fully fund the Veterans Administration, expand access to care in rural areas and improve treatment for mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The accessibility with this administration has been outstanding. They listen, they reach out to the veterans’ service organizations, they see the value in communicating,” Peter Gaytan, executive director of the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans’ organization, with 2.5 million members.

Even amid competing priorities and a deepening recession, Mr. Obama last year managed to secure the biggest increase in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 30 years. And as Congress begins writing spending bills for 2011, despite a spending freeze on some other domestic spending, he’s looking for more aid for veterans.

Mr. Obama’s proposed VA budget for fiscal 2011 asks for $125 billion – a 10 percent jump from what Congress enacted for 2010, which was itself more than 16 percent more than 2009. The discretionary portion of next year’s budget request – the part the administration and Congress have the most direct control over – is up nearly 20 percent since 2009, to total $60.3 billion.

In the area of mental health, Mr. Obama’s budget for next year directs $5.2 billion in specialized funds for treatment of PTSD as well as for traumatic brain injury and other related conditions. It also asks for $2.5 billion to construct new VA centers and improve existing facilities.

“Across the board, the president has kept his promises to our veterans and will continue to uphold our obligations to all who have served,” White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said, noting that Mr. Obama “has a deep respect and appreciation for our service members and veterans.”

Perhaps one of the reasons Mr. Obama’s veterans policies have flown under the radar – relative to his hard-fought victory on the health care overhaul – is they draw bipartisan support at a time when the nation is still fighting two wars. In addition to approving double-digit budget increases, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came together last year on a bill that put the portion of the VA’s budget that deals with medical care on a two-year track to insulate it from legislative delays.

They also signed off on the post-9/11 GI bill, which provides Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with money for tuition and housing while in school.

More recently, the Senate last week approved a bipartisan bill that expands benefits for the caregivers of wounded veterans and tries to accommodate those in rural areas by expanding the VA’s telemedicine program and travel reimbursements. The bill, authored by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, now awaits the president’s signature.

“I would think there’s more agreement than disagreement” on veterans’ issues, said Brooks Tucker, deputy staff director for Republicans on the committee.

But there are still bones of contention.

While veterans groups roundly praised the leadership of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, a retired U.S. Army general, the agency lacks a permanent undersecretary for benefits. The previous administrator stepped down in January, leaving the Veterans Benefits Administration – which one advocate described as the “Achilles heel” of the VA – without a leader who’s earned Senate backing to tackle the troubled claims process.

“We realize that President Obama and Secretary Shinseki inherited this catastrophe, but they really need to fix it now,” said Paul Sullivan , executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. Mr. Sullivan’s group has called for an overhaul of the VBA, which determines eligibility for federal benefits.

While veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have free health care for five years, veterans from other wars and those whose time has expired must fill out a 23-page claim form to be eligible for care. To make matters worse, Mr. Sullivan said, VBA employees are sparsely located – there is only one VBA office in Virginia and one in Maryland, for example. And the backlog is astonishing: About half a million veterans are waiting on average six months for an answer to a new disability claim, while an additional 200,000 are waiting for an answer on an appealed claim, according to Mr. Sullivan.

“That’s too many veterans, and they’re waiting too long,” he said.

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13 Responses to "Veterans Salute President Obama on Funding for VA"

  1. Oldleatherneck  May 13, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Smoke and mirroes! The devil is in the details. Dig into the meat of it. Its all about getting votes. Empty words, empty promises, and no results.

  2. sarg  May 3, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Somehow we became a society of agenda’s and who ever gets to the media or papers first with a statement………thats the way it is. Altho the president may be trying to help veterans and work out the issues..we are failing. My advice when you want to know whats really wrong and to get to the bottom of the issues dealing with veterans……..ask a veteran who does not wear a three piece suit and play both sides of the vote…..ask a veteran who has no agenda and no private interest other than telling you about whats bothering them or how they feel. Most veterans I know seek other veterans when they have a problem because they feel no one else is listening as well as lack of trust for anyone in government. All I am saying is…..”I” as a veteran am not putting anyone down in government……just giving a idea to anyone that might care.

  3. Alan D. Opra  May 3, 2010 at 12:06 am

    14 years do you have an acredited Service Officer? claims are moving along faster and they just added 3 more presumptives for Agent Orange. It’s not perfect but at least this administration is trying to help Veterans which is more than I can say for the last one!

  4. Chuck  May 1, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Agreed brother! Not enough, and time is running out for us. Don’t give up, however. In doing so, THEY will win!

  5. Chuck  May 1, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Exactly part of my point – they are swift to act for those of us who are already dead. Benefits are due for all of us – especially those of us who are alive and can reap some semblance of life.

    Sorry, brother – not enough is happening in our favor and tens of thousands if not more will die waiting. Just look at HR 2254 as another example – it was introduced to Congress in May of 2009. Filner, supposedly is bringing it to a House Committee hearing on May 5th, 2010 – a year wait just for a hearing? You know why? Our elected officials have indicated a cost concern. Delay longer and we will die waiting. ALL veterans and their offspring are entitled – why 35 years post war and the presumptive list still stands at such a small number? The DVA as well as the majority of the current administration have their priorities all wrong when it comes to us.

  6. Blackcoat  May 1, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Are the politicians in this country shitting on Veterans? Absolutely. Are the politicians shitting on the active duty in this country? Absolutely. Are the politicians self-serving and greedy? Absolutely. The reason that the politicians are shitting on us, is because we allow them to! Too many of us tend to care less about anything except that our party is right and your party is wrong. Semper Fidelis. Blackcoat.

  7. Simon Alvarado  May 1, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Have we not figure out that the DVA has become a corporate machine that swallows without chewing? Those corporate dogs are keeping all that money that was supposed to be given to veterans for their private agendas, like bonuses for themselves and their friends, or maybe even some contracts to their favorite fellow thieves.
    Why is it that now every time dick and harry wants to claim their victory in solving veterans problems with no result? A good example is rural health; I have yet to see any results where I live or anywhere else. VAOIG goes out and inspect, etc and give them a pat on the back because everything is hooky dory, but they do not bother to ask the veterans about the crappy job they are doing. Even still, they do not even respond to complaints. How can this be?
    For those of you that were treated well in the VA, I am happy, but for the rest of us, it is not fun being diagnosed with something you do not have like, cancer, hep C, or you name it. Has anyone tried to get an appointment and you are told that they cannot see because they do not have the funds? Where is the money? Research ?????? again and again until they prove that all those veterans receiving benefits for PTSD are lying. They do not care how much money it will take because after all it is not there. Those top dogs needs to be let go and get real people who care about veterans.

  8. Matt Ford, M.P.A.  May 1, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I see nothing here that addresses the very old claims by Korean and Vietnam Veterans.

    The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) expects a backlog of veterans seeking disability claims to reach 1.3 million in 2011. (Source: Army Times, February 2010, article by Rick Maze)

    My own claim for disability benefits is now 14 years and 8 months old. I am sure that there are many others whose claims are much older than mine. No progress seen here. Letters to President Obama are unanswered.

    The DVA wants me to give up. That will never happen.

    Expect to here more empty speeches and empty promises on Memorial Days and Veterans Days to follow.

  9. Charles A Parkhurst  May 1, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    White House spokesman Nick Shapiro lied when he said the president kept his promises to our veterans. He promissed to approve concurrent receipt but did not fund it in his budget, which was his way of makeing sure the bill would not pass in congress so he would not have to sign it into law. Makes you wonder what a life is worth to our leaders.

  10. Jim Starowicz  May 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    And why would you think One Article is going to cover everything You Want!!! Use that computer to do what it’s best for Research, you obviously haven’t been keeping up with everything that’s being done these last less then two years under Shinseki and wasn’t even mentioned as the drums beat for two more occupations nor the years before under a certain political parties control of congress!!

  11. Jim Starowicz  May 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Left out one issue, they are also upgrading and building new Veterans Cemeteries around the country!

  12. Jim Starowicz  May 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Allot of what Shinseki is doing in the VA is Forcing the Country To Finally Sacrifice, reason that and other agencies are constantly playing catchup, but especially the VA. He is using the Stimulus Funding to upgrade not only clinics and hospitals but build new as well as to try and finally catchup with the technology of the 21st century which has been lagging thus creating much more problems and costing more to fix those! They cheer on Wars of Choice but have not wanted to pony up for the long term results since Korea and forward!! But there are also many issues being taken on by the Administration, coming from the President as well as the First Lady to the Vice President and his wife and on down that are quickly taken on by the Administration of the VA!

  13. Chuck  May 1, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    This all well in good, but I see no mention by the American Legion or any indications in this article that even hints to assisting the Vietnam Veteran who has been affected by Agent Orange, or our children and grandchildren – and most likely the insidious poison known as dioxin will continue to maim and kill for several more generations. The studies have been completed, yet Secretary Shinseki as well as the DVA and the Obama Administration just continue the sad legacy – delay, delay, delay – yes, its easier to see all of us dead, then to pay and resolve what we so rightfully deserve. We gave our life for our country – our country continues to turn its collective back on us, and our descendants. No excuse is good enough. Inherited a catastrophe? Sounds like the seeds are already being planted by those who would join in this charade. We have been out of Vietnam for 35 years now, the studies have proven the harm caused by Agent Orange – and the documents that have been obtained and publicized also prove the US Military and Government knew very well that harm would come to us as well as our descendants as a result of exposure to AO. They out and out lied and covered up what was to come. Now they continue to use the delay tactic hoping we will all just shut up and, well, die.

    Thank you for publicizing this article. It continues to prove what I have known since my active duty days and what I learned through the years – the US Government does not take care of its own, let alone those of us who fought to protect this same government and people. What excuse is the American Legion, the DVA, The Secretary, The President giving for not yet approving the 3 additional presumptive diseases? Red tape? Enough of the nonsense – our own Secretary of the VA cant even get approved what he said would be approved. What a sham!

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