Additional Funds for Vets Requested Associated Press | July 15, 2005 WASHINGTON - The White House asked Congress on Thursday for another $2 billion to cover a shortfall in funding for veterans health benefits, just two weeks after asking for $975 million. The latest request includes $300 million for current needs and $1.7 billion for the budget year starting Oct. 1. The additional money is necessary to correct underestimations by the Veterans Affairs Department of the number of veterans seeking care and well as increased costs of treatment and long-term care. Lawmakers promise speedy action on the funds needed for this year, which are likely to be included in an Interior Department funding bill sent to President Bush before Congress leaves for its August recess, said Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Larry Craig, R-Idaho. The remainder will be handled as Congress considers the VA's regular funding bill. VA Secretary Jim Nicholson said Thursday, "Veterans of every era can rest easy, knowing that access to what has been described as the finest integrated health care system in the country will remain undiminished." Just three weeks ago, Nicholson told lawmakers that faster-than-expected growth in health care demand had left the VA roughly $1 billion short this year. Nicholson originally said that by rearranging funds in its maintenance accounts and using a budgetary cushion, the VA could satisfactorily manage the problem without extra money. Lawmakers in both parties, however, insisted that supplemental funding fill in the shortfall. The Senate has twice voted to add $1.5 billion to this year's VA budget, but the House held to the White House's initial $975 million request when passing a stand-alone measure two weeks ago.