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 Post subject: Disabled Vets Protest Bush Budget
PostPosted: Thu Mar 10, 2005 5:52 pm 
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Disabled veterans protest budget proposal for health care

By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Thursday, March 10, 2005

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of disabled veterans booed and jeered Republican House members on Tuesday for their budget proposal for veterans’ health care, which critics call inadequate to deal with the future needs of current troops.

Following testimony before a pair of congressional committees by officials from the Disabled American Veterans, or DAV, the crowd of more than 400 wounded and disabled veterans cheered House members who criticized the president’s budget plans and heckled representatives who defended the spending.

The loudest heckling was reserved for House Veterans’ Affairs chairman Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind., who was criticized by Democrats on the committee and rebuked the crowd at one point by saying “where the river is the shallowest, it makes the most noise.”

The proposed 2006 budget includes a 1.1 percent increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which officials from the DAV called too little to deal with the large number of servicemembers expected to return from Iraq and Afghanistan with missing limbs, mental illnesses and other service injuries.

In addition, the budget would require veterans without combat injuries and who make more than $25,000 a year to pay a $250 enrollment fee to use department health services.

James Sursely, national commander of the DAV, which calls itself the voice of service-connected disabled veterans, said he wants to see an additional $3.4 billion added to the budget for veterans’ medical care, and see the new fees removed.

But Republicans on the committee have already forwarded their budget proposals to House officials, and they include an enrollment fee and only slight funding increases.

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., called Buyer and his supporters hypocrites for scheduling Tuesday’s hearing without any intention of considering the veterans’ budget concerns.

“This budget is an insult to our troops and to you,” he told the crowd, who responded with a standing ovation. “This is unconscionable.”

Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., called promises made by Republicans “frankly a lot of [expletive],” and was quickly censured by Buyer as the crowd roared in approval.

Buyer said the committee is focused on making sure the poorest and most severely injured veterans continue to receive free medical care, and said many affluent, uninjured veterans can currently exploit the low-cost health care system. If changes are not made, the quality of care could suffer, he said.

Army Sgt. Tyler Hall, a 24-year-old Alaskan who lost part of his left leg in an improvised explovsive device blast in August, said he attended Tuesday’s hearing to learn more about the legislative process and see how he can help other soldiers like himself.

“The number of disabled vets is growing, so this affects us quite a bit,” he said. “You almost automatically go into the VA hospitals, so we need to make sure the care is there.”

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