Vet care a main concern
Published 9:38 am Monday, August 21, 2006
During the August district work period, I have had the opportunity to visit with many of you in southwest Alabama. As I've said several times in the past, one of the best parts of this job is visiting with my constituents and getting their opinions and ideas on what's going on in Washington.
This August has certainly been no exception, and I have had several events that are both productive and informative. I spent the first weekend of the month in Iraq, and this past week I went to the United States border in Texas to witness how the flood of illegal immigration is affecting our society. Both of these trips are in addition to a full slate of office appointments.
The questions and comments I received during my recent phone town-hall meetings were invaluable, and I will certainly keep them all in mind as I work with my colleagues in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks and months.
Of particular interest to many was the issue of care for our veterans. In light of the recent news regarding a second computer containing sensitive veterans' data being stolen, allow me to take a few minutes to provide you with an update on funding for veterans' programs.
Since 1930, when President Herbert Hoover signed Executive Order 5398 establishing the Veterans Administration (VA) to provide care and services for America's veterans, the size of our veterans' population and the scope of necessary services have increased dramatically. In fact, when the VA was created, there were 4.7 million veterans and 54 veterans' hospitals.
By the end of 2004, the number of veterans living in the United States increased to 24.8 million with 426,000 in Alabama alone. Over the past decade, the VA has transformed the health care system to include over 600 health facilities, including medical centers, nursing homes, and hundreds of community-based outpatient clinics.
The House of Representatives has been working diligently on behalf of veterans throughout the 109th Congress. The House has increased veterans spending by 18%, an increase of $12 billion, to approximately $78 billion for fiscal year 2007. Veterans medical care funding has increased by 16% as well as a 6.3% increase for mental health care. The House has passed provisions increasing the cost of living for veterans and survivor benefits by 2.6% in fiscal year 2007.
Additional accomplishments in support of veterans include: