National Commander's Message: Assured Funding is Anything But "Inferior"

Randy Barnes, who served in the Vietnam War as a medic, said that at one time he spent an hour a week with a psychiatrist, who treated him for post-traumatic stress disorder. Those meetings now occur four times a year and last only a half-hour, Barnes said.

"Now, that's not what I call therapy," he said.

Barnes was one of fifty veterans who came to the Tippecanoe County Courthouse in Indiana on Monday to express their anger to the Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, over perceived reductions in VA health care services.

Buyer, a Gulf War veteran from Monticello, represents Indiana's 4th Congressional District, which includes Tippecanoe County.

A statement released by Buyer's office said the charge that he doesn't support caring for veterans' mental health is unfounded. Nonetheless, there are many veterans who would disagree. David Sanders, who is running to replace Buyer in Congress, says he receives about two- dozen letters, phone calls or e-mails every weekday from veterans across the United States who are angry at decisions concerning the VA health care's annual budget.

To add fuel to the fire, Chairman Buyer recently released a statement calling any attempts at assured (mandatory) funding to be an inferior approach to managing the VA health care budget.

According to the chairman, "A rigid mandatory funding formula also reduces the oversight clout of Congress and removes a major incentive for VA to perform efficiently, let alone make improvements. This inferior approach to funding would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, cost taxpayers half a trillion dollars over ten years, while putting hard-won quality gains at risk."

The American Legion is a non-partisan wartime veterans service organization. Regardless of who chairs the Committee on Veterans Affairs, regardless of which political party is in control of the House and Senate, The American Legion's campaign for assured funding will continue. And for the record, assured funding is anything but "inferior."

Under budget law, a mandatory or assured funding program is one that requires provision of benefits to all who meet the eligibility requirements of the law. Assured funding is provided for programs such as Social Security, Medicare and VA compensation and pension. Although all of these programs are formula-based, they are still subject to congressional oversight.

Assured funding is also one component of a combination of funding mechanisms The American Legion recommends to ensure adequate VA medical care funding. The goal is to establish sustained funding to fulfill the nation's promise to its veterans.

The 2.7 million members of The American Legion, along with veterans like Randy Barnes who showed up at the courthouse in Tippecanoe County this past week, realize that assured funding would be anything but "inferior" as the Chairman believes.

That is why your delegates unanimously passed Resolution 254, The American Legion Policy on Assured Funding For VA Medical Care, at the 88th Annual National American Legion Convention in Salt Lake City in August. That is why we will continue our campaign for assured funding, regardless of who dominates the House or the Senate.

The American Legion has joined forces with AMVETS, the Blinded Veterans Association, Disabled American Veterans, Jewish War Veterans, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the VFW, and Vietnam Veterans of America to advocate VA health care budget reform. The united message is clear: support assured funding for veterans health care.

Our veterans - those serving and those who have served - have earned the right to assured funding. The guardians of our freedom deserve a stable, sustained health care system. And we will do everything within our power to make that happen.

May God Bless,

Paul A. Morin
American Legion National Commander
October 26, 2006



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