Saturday, March 06, 2004

Who's Zooming Who(m)

Veteran's Benefits May Get Amputated

WISINAWYG: What I say is not always what you get:

Remarks by the President to the Veterans of Foreign WarsPresident George W. Bush signs H. R. 2297, the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003, in the Oval Office Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2003.

Annual Convention
Midwest Express Center
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 20, 2001

11:20 A.M. CDT

      My administration understands America's obligations not only go to those who wear the uniform today, but to those who wore the uniform in the past: to our veterans.  And at times, those obligations have not been met. (Applause.) Veterans in need of care have been kept waiting, and thousands of veterans' claims have been delayed, or in some cases lost in the bureaucracy.

     Many veterans have observed that the government seemed to work a lot more efficiently when it wanted something from them.  When the Draft Board got your file, it worked efficiently.  (Laughter.)  But now, when you need health care, forms get lost and answers come late.  That is no way to treat America's veterans, and that is going to change.  (Applause.)

     Secretary Principi is conducting a top-to-bottom review of the claims processing.  Currently, there are about 600,000 pending applications, of which 53,000 have been pending over a year.  Many of those belong to veterans over 70 years of age.  That's not right.  I have given Secretary Principi the clearest of clear mandates.  He must bring those claims to a speedy and fair resolution. We must move as quickly as possible on the backlog, and we will. (Applause.) We will improve cooperation between the VA and the Department of Defense in providing care to those who served.

Veterans Groups Critical of Bush's VA Budget
Dismay Over Higher Fees and Staff Cuts Could Be Boon for Democratic Nominee

By Edward Walsh
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, March 3, 2004; Page A25

After three years of mostly good relations with President Bush, Edward S. Banas Sr., commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the president's proposed budget for veterans' health care "a disgrace and a sham." (Joe Mitchell -- AP)Military veterans have already played a prominent role in the 2004 presidential campaign, helping to propel one of their own -- Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts -- close to the Democratic nomination. If he is the nominee, Kerry is counting on strong support from his fellow veterans in the general election battle against President Bush.

And Kerry may be getting an unintended boost from the Bush administration's proposed budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs in the next fiscal year.

After three years of mostly cordial relations with the administration, leaders of veterans' organizations and a union that represents VA workers are voicing strong criticism of Bush's fiscal 2005 budget plan. They assert that the budget would only worsen the backlog in processing disability claims, reduce the number of VA nursing home beds just as the number of veterans who need long-term care is swelling and force some veterans to pay a fee simply to gain access to the VA health care system.

In a statement issued shortly after the budget was released, Edward S. Banas Sr., commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, called the VA's health care spending proposal "a disgrace and a sham." [...]

According to John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the VA is calling for a reduction of 540 full-time jobs in the Veterans Benefits Administration, which handles disability, pension and other claims by veterans.[...]

VFW Supports Recommendation to Increase VA Budget

Washington, D.C., March 1, 2004--"The House Committee on Veterans Affairs' recommendation to add $2.5 billion to the Bush Administration's fiscal year 2005 budget request for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care programs represents a solid commitment to this nation's veterans" said the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.[...]

"With the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid projecting a 7.8 percent increase in health care spending and VA officials testifying that the veterans' health care system requires 13-14 percent annually to meet the needs of sick and disabled veterans anything less than the House Veterans Affairs' Committee's recommendations would amount to a denial of care. It would also fail to fully acknowledge our duty to those service men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Issue Date: June 30, 2003

Nothing but lip service

In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap — and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary — including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

Then there’s military tax relief — or the lack thereof. As Bush and Republican leaders in Congress preach the mantra of tax cuts, they can’t seem to find time to make progress on minor tax provisions that would be a boon to military homeowners, reservists who travel long distances for training and parents deployed to combat zones, among others.

Incredibly, one of those tax provisions — easing residency rules for service members to qualify for capital-gains exemptions when selling a home — has been a homeless orphan in the corridors of power for more than five years now.

The chintz even extends to basic pay. While Bush’s proposed 2004 defense budget would continue higher targeted raises for some ranks, he also proposed capping raises for E-1s, E-2s and O-1s at 2 percent, well below the average raise of 4.1 percent.

I don't think I need to comment on this.  WISINAWYG.