05.22.07

Schumer Announces Congress Passes Budget That Restores Devastating Cuts For Medical Care For Thousands Of Upstate NY Vets

In the Wake of the Walter Reed Scandal and with Thousands of Veterans Slated to Return Home in the Future, Upstate New York Vets in Dire Need of Medical CareCongress' Budget will Offset Administration's Cuts that Cost Upstate New York Veterans an Estimated $101.4 million in Medical ServicesEarlier this Year, Schumer Toured the Canandaigua VA Medical Center and Pledged to Re

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2008 budget to restore funding for hundreds of thousands of veterans across upstate New York who are currently in jeopardy of losing an estimated $101.4 million in medical services under the President's proposed budget cuts. In the wake of the Walter Reed scandal and with thousands of active soldiers slated to return home, Senator Schumer toured the Canandaigua VA Medical Center earlier this year and pledged to restore funding for all upstate veterans who are in need of vital health care.

The $43.1 billion budget for veterans programs includes funding for medical care and VA hospitals across the country and upstate New York, where thousands of returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan will receive medical treatment.

"This budget was crafted explicitly with the medical care of our returning soldiers in mind," said Senator Schumer. "After the revelations of the disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed, we were determined to make sure every veteran from Buffalo to Binghamton wasn't forced to make another sacrifice after bravely serving their nation abroad."

Earlier this year, Schumer revealed that the current Administration's budget shortchanges veterans' health care needs by more than $100 million, part of a $2.8 billion potential nationwide shortfall. The bulk of this shortfall comes from the fact that the number of physicians, nurses, and all other health professionals currently employed by the VA cannot keep pace with increasing demands on the system from current wars abroad.

With more than 30,000 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 currently living in upstate New York, the Senator had called for the cuts to be restored and for a new commission to investigate conditions at military health care facilities across the country in the wake of the scandal involving outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Too offset the President's proposed budget cuts, Congress' budget provides $43.1 billion for veterans programs and was developed with the assistance of four leading veterans groups and the recommendation of the American Legion. The funding is $3.6 billion more than the Presidents budget in 2008 and more than $20 billion above the President's over five year. It also represents the largest increase for veteran's medical care ever.

Schumer said the President's cuts could have cost upstate New York veterans an estimated $101.4 million in medical services. There are over 637,400 veterans currently living in upstate New York with 263,600 currently receiving VA health benefits. The numbers below were obtained from the New York State Division of Veterans' Affairs which breaks out medical expenditures for veterans in every county in the state. Below is how the numbers break out across the state:

"Right now, there are 83,273 veterans living in the Capital Region with 34,302 enrolled in the VA health service. Under the Congress' new budget $15,310,020 in cuts will be restored.

"Right now, there are 73,840 veterans living in Central New York with 30,558 enrolled in the VA health service. Under Congress' new budget $15,074,826 in cuts will be restored.

"Right now, there are 93,456 veterans living in the Rochester Finger Lakes Region with 37,731 enrolled in the VA health service. Under the Congress' new budget $10,478,514 in cuts will be restored.

"Right now, there are 144,846 veterans living in the Hudson Valley with 63,076 enrolled in the VA health service. Under the Congress' new budget $18,482,346 in cuts will be restored.

"Right now, there are 53,286 veterans living in the North Country with 21,116 enrolled in the VA health service. Under the Congress' new budget $4,627,917 in cuts will be restored.

"Right now, there are 58,842 veterans living in the Southern Tier with 24,019 enrolled in the VA health service. Under the Congress' new budget $15,453,877 in cuts will be restored.

"Right now, there are 129,899 veterans living in Western New York with 52,834 enrolled in the VA health service. Under the Congress' new budget $21,941,399 in cuts will be restored.

As the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars continue, Schumer said that the VA has not yet seen the bulk of claims or patients resulting from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and must now take aggressive measures to ensure there are adequate facilities to handle the physical and physiological needs of these new veterans in the short term and over the long term.

As of September 2006, more than 50,500 US soldiers have suffered nonmortal wounds in Iraq and Afghanistan a ratio of 16 wounded servicemen per fatality. This is by far the highest ratio of any recent war. Though advancements in field medicine and overall medical technology, more servicemen and women are thankfully surviving their wounds; however, Schumer said current and past VA budgets do not account for the dramatic new and longterm burdens on VA health care. Last year, the Administration came up $2 billion short in funding for veterans and Congress was forced to pass an emergency spending bill to make up the difference. Schumer said that repeated budget cuts have created a crisis situation in the veterans' health care system



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