American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill expressed disappointment at Congress' failure Wednesday to pass an appropriations bill that would fund VA for fiscal 2010. Instead, Congress approved a continuing resolution to provide additional funding for VA medical accounts.
"A year ago, Congress made history by passing, on time – before the beginning of the new fiscal year – the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY 2009," Hill said. "We at The American Legion applauded the record-setting event, especially since the majority of federal agencies did not receive their new appropriations until March 11 – six months into the new fiscal year."
In September, Hill appeared before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees, testifying that timely passage of the fiscal 2010 military construction-VA budget was a top priority of The American Legion.
"Since my election, I have emphasized this to every member of Congress with whom I have met," Hill said. "Running the ‘best health-care system in the nation' is an important responsibility, and having a budget that is sufficient, predictable and on time will help hospital administrators make efficient and cost-effective management decisions.
"Both long- and short-range strategies are more relevant and reliable when the money is in the bank, rather than having a check in the mail. Therefore, we urge Congress to approve VA funding immediately," Hill said.
Currently, 8 million veterans are enrolled in the VA health-care delivery system, of whom nearly 6 million patients depend on timely access to that care. Many ongoing medical and prosthetics research programs also depend on annual federal funding.
Historically, VA administrators have found themselves delaying maintenance projects, implementing hiring freezes, and postponing equipment and supply purchases in order to maintain medical services for veterans and their families.
"Most Americans understand the importance of meeting the needs of the nation's wounded warriors, but there is also an ongoing obligation to generations of men and women who served honorably and earned the benefits provided by a grateful nation," Hill said.
"Admittedly, the continuing resolution provides additional funding for VA medical accounts, but its balance does not fully fund other quality-of-life benefits for servicemembers and their families. Therefore, passage of the fiscal 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill remains a top priority for The American Legion family."