Senate Removes VA Health Care Fees from Budget

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    VFW Washington Weekly,
    March 17, 2006

    In This Issue:
    1. Senate Removes VA Health Care Fees from Budget
    2. 2006 VA Funding Increased
    3. House Vet Committee holds Hearing on GI Bill
    4. Senate Looks at Homeless Vet Program
    5. Tricare Fees Under Attack in Congress


    1. Senate Removes VA Health Care Fees from Budget
    The Senate approved an amendment to the FY 2007 budget that stripped out the President’s proposed enrollment fee and co-payment increases. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) introduced the amendment, which added $823 million to the budget to make up for the revenue that would have been collected had the fees been approved. No action has been taken in the House, but they are expected to also remove the fees.

    2. 2006 VA Funding Increased
    Representative Chet Edwards (D-TX) secured approval of an amendment to an emergency supplemental bill. His amendment frees up an additional $275 million for health care to help pay for an increase in patients from the current war. The number of veterans from the war accessing the system is far above what VA had projected. The bill cleared the House Appropriations Committee and is expected to pass on the House floor next week.


    3. House Vet Committee Holds Hearing on GI Bill
    Members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee heard testimony this week from representatives of the Department of Defense and all branches of the National Guard and Reserve components. The hearing was called to discuss current effectiveness of GI Bill education and training programs

    Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-IN) has announced that he plans to hold several hearings on what types of education and training are available to eligible veterans and how it can be adjusted to meet the needs of transitioning veterans and be used as a recruiting and retention tool.

    The VFW supports a Total Force MGIB for the 21st Century.

    For more information on the hearing visit the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Website at: http://veterans.house.gov/hearings/index.html

    4. Senate Looks at Homeless Vet Program
    The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to examine homeless veterans programs within VA. VA spends around $221 million on grants, housing, and treatment of underlying conditions that often lead to homelessness. Legislation enacted in December 2001 (P.L. 107-95) which funds many mental health and homeless programs is set to expire.

    Witnesses provided statistics on the number of homeless veterans dealing with a host of issues and asked Congress to fully fund all programs which assist homeless veterans. Chairman Larry Craig (R-ID) noted that 45% of homeless veterans have mental illnesses, suffer from addition or substance abuse disorders.

    For more information visit the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee website:
    http://veterans.senate.gov/

    5. Tricare Fees under Attack in Congress
    A Department of Defense proposal that would increase Tricare fees for retirees under the age of 65 using the military health care system has met with heavy opposition among members of Congress.

    VFW-supported legislation (HR 4949) introduced this week by Representative Chet Edwards (D-TX) and Walter B. Jones (R-NC) would end any fee increases and transfer all authority for future military health care program increases and enhancements to Congress.

    Join the VFW in fighting against Tricare increases by urging your representative to support HR 4949 to block any Tricare increases.

    To Take Action click here:
    http://capwiz.com/vfw/issues/alert/?alertid=8585061&type=CO

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