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Contact: John Gentzel, Communications Director 202-225-4315

House Protects Veterans Health Care Programs

Washington, Jul 1, 2005 - Responding to an accounting error at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that would have shortchanged America’s veterans by nearly $1 billion, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a supplemental appropriations bill Thursday that makes up the shortfall.

“Faced with the possibility of our veterans not having access to the medical care that they so desperately need, the House took action and corrected the situation,” Rep. Gerlach said.

Last week, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held an oversight hearing to examine health care cost forecasting and uncovered key weaknesses in the processes used by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to forecast health care demand. During this process, the Committee uncovered a critical shortfall in veterans’ health care funding for fiscal years 2005 and 2006. Administration officials testified before Congress this week that the funding shortfall is due in part to updated actuarial information and an increase in the number of veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The $975 million supplemental includes:

• $273 million to fund health care for returning Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans, including members of the Guard and Reserve;
• $226 million to continue funding the shared federal and state VA long-term care nursing home program;
• $200 million to fund unanticipated increases in the health care for priority-group 1-6 veterans;
• $95 million to fund unanticipated energy, fuel, and utility costs;
• $84 million to buy emergency medical equipment; and
• $39 million to pay for the increase in health care benefits for dependants of 100-percent service-connected veterans as the need has increased at a rate greater than expected.

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