U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today hailed the President’s release of $3.7 billion in additional veterans funding provided by Congress. These funds, combined with others approved last year, total a $6.7 billion increase in 2008, the largest single funding increase in the 77-year history of the Veterans Affairs Department (VA).
“Last year we learned that returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans faced a care crisis at home, and Congress responded with this funding increase and our Wounded Warrior Act reforms. The 110th Congress took major, concrete steps in our first session to honor our promises to our veterans,” Smith said.
Today’s funds, when taken together with other funds provided over the last year by the 110th Congress, add up to $6.7 billion. These funds will:
Strengthen health care for 5.8 million patients, including about 263,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, in the fifth year of the war in Iraq;
Invest in maintenance for VA health care facilities and treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury for returning veterans;
Reduce the backlog of veterans (400,000 claims) waiting for their earned benefits by adding 1,800 claims processors; and
Build on other steps by this Congress in 2007: increasing veterans’ health care and benefits by $5.2 billion for improved care and shorter wait times.
Most veterans receiving VA health care are struggling to get into the middle class, with a median annual income of $23,000.
This increase won widespread support and praise from America’s leading veterans’ organizations including:
- The American Legion
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
- Military Officers Association of America
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
- National Association for Uniformed Services
- Disabled American Veterans
According to the VA, 617,723 lived in Washington state as of 2006.