The Bush administration has, with much fanfare announced a 2.7% increase to the Department of Veterans Affairs budget for 2006. Sounds like the administration is finally doing something for it’s veterans. However, the Office of Budget and Management and the General Accounting Office have estimated the 2.7% increase will only cover the cost of the inflation for 2006. Once again, the spin doctors have issued a carefully worded press release to make it sound as through the administration is increasing the VA budget, when in fact all they are doing is keeping pace with inflation. To add insult to injury, in the 2005 Budget the administration is seeking a 5% cut in the VA budget. If you include the 2.7% inflation rate that now exist, the Bush proposed budget cut will amount to an actual 7.7% reduction in real dollars to the VA’s 2005 budget. Compare the 2.7% increase for 2006, and the loss of 7.7% in 2005, the VA budget will have a net loss to the budget of 5% for the 2006 fiscal VA year. Also, there are plans to double prescription co-payments and impose enrollment fees for certain veterans. And while the budget calls for $33.4 billion in discretionary funding that is mostly for health care, it also proposes slashing millions for nursing home care needed by an aging veterans population. This administration has increased the VA budget by 47% since 2001, (which speaks poorly of the Clinton administration). If you factor in the inflation rate, the administration has only increase the VA budget by 38% in real dollars. If you add in the net loss of 5% in 2006, the VA budget has only had an average annual increase of 6.6% per year. This 6.6% increase is not enough to keep up with the two front wars we are engaged, along with the additional troops involved with Homeland Security. More so, the increase has not kept pace with the every increasing VA drug and medical costs, operating expenses and the influx into the VA system of aging World War II, Korean and Vietnam veterans, nor are they taking into account the many thousands disabled veterans coming back from the Iraq and Afganistan Wars. On top of this, the General Accounting Office’s latest audit of the Pentagon finds that the Pentagon cannot account for $1 Trillion dollars. How might Rumsfield put it? You have the administration you would like to have and then you have the administration that you really have.