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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Letter to Obama VA Health Care Buget

Stand Up for Veterans Updatehttp://www.fundingforvets.org/PartnershipLetterObama.pdf

The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform

Representing America’s Veterans

The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform P.O. Box 71084 Washington, DC 20024

The American Legion

1608 K Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20006

(202) 861-2700

www.legion.org

AMVETS (American Veterans)

4647 Forbes Blvd.

Lanham, MD 20706

(301) 459-9600

www.amvets.org

Blinded Veterans Association

477 H Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20001

(202) 371-8880

www.bva.org

Disabled American Veterans

807 Maine Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20024

(202) 554-3501

www.dav.org

Jewish War Veterans of the USA

1811 R Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20009

(202) 265-6280

www.jwv.org

Military Order of the Purple Heart

of the U.S.A., Inc.

5413-B Backlick Road

Springfield, VA 22151

(703) 642-5360

www.purpleheart.org

Paralyzed Veterans of America

801 18th Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20006

(202) 872-1300

www.pva.org

Veterans of Foreign Wars

of the United States

200 Maryland Avenue, N.E.

Washington, DC 20002

(202) 543-2239

www.vfw.org

Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc.

8605 Cameron Street, Suite 400

Silver Spring, MD 20910

(301) 585-4000

www.va.org

January 9, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama

President-elect of the United States

Presidential Transition Office

Washington, DC

Dear President-elect Obama:

On behalf of the eight million veterans represented by the nine national veterans

service organizations in The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget

Reform, we are writing to urge you to recommend passage of advance

appropriations legislation for the FY 2010 appropriations cycle in your first

budget request and legislative program. We were pleased to read recent news

accounts reporting Veterans Affairs Secretary-designee Eric Shinseki’s support

for the advance appropriations proposal. The inclusion of this proposal in your

first budget submission would send a strong signal to the leadership of the 111th

Congress and the veterans’ community of your firm commitment to change the

funding process for veterans’ health care.

Notwithstanding the recent achievements of the 110th Congress for veterans, VA

has received its annual funding for health care programs late in 19 of the last 22

years. Over the past seven years, VA received its final budget an average of

three months after the start of the new fiscal year. Not knowing when or what

level of funding will be approved from year to year hinders the ability of VA

officials to efficiently plan and responsibly manage this exceptional health care

system. Compounding the problem are new demands placed on the VA system:

over the past decade the number of veterans treated at VA facilities has almost

doubled and the newest generation of wartime veterans has increasingly complex

mental and physical health care needs that may require a lifetime of care.

The Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform remains committed to

fundamentally change the way veterans’ health care is funded. While mandatory

funding has been the focus over the past several years, The Partnership developed

an alternative approach to achieve the same critical goals as mandatory funding –

sufficient, timely and predictable funding – which is embodied in the Veterans

Health Care Budget Reform Act (S. 3527 / H.R. 6939) introduced last year by

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka and House

Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner, respectively. This legislation

would authorize Congress to approve appropriations for veterans’ health care one

year in advance of the start of the fiscal year, and add greater transparency and

integrity to VA’s internal budget process to ensure sufficient funding levels are

ultimately approved.

President-elect Barack Obama

January 9, 2009

Page 2

The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Act received strong bipartisan support from leaders in the

110th Congress, including you, Sen. John McCain and others. Along with The Partnership , the

legislation has also been endorsed by The Military Coalition, comprised of 35 organizations

representing more than 5.5 million members of the uniformed services – active duty, National

Guard, Reserve, retired, former officers, and their families – and the American Federation of

Government Employees (AFGE). In addition, a growing list of more than two dozen former highranking

VA officials, including medical center directors, regional health care network directors,

Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and Secretaries, have joined together to support this

commonsense funding reform. A national survey commissioned by Disabled American Veterans

(DAV) last year also showed that more than 80% of the American public supports reforming VA

health care funding through an advance appropriations process.

Mr. President-elect, we agree with your statement that it is time to, “… end the unpredictability and

inadequacy of VA’s discretionary funding process and instead, use an advance appropriations

process that would allow Congress to provide VA health care dollars in advance and allow for

improved planning and predictability.” As you and your transition team continue developing your

first budget request and legislative program, we urge you to include clear language requesting

advance appropriations for VA medical care accounts. We stand ready to work with you, VA

Secretary-designee Eric Shinseki, OMB Director-designee Peter Orzag, and others in your transition

team and incoming Administration to ensure that this vital budgetary reform is enacted into law

early in the 111th Congress.

Respectfully,

JOHN SOMMER JAMES B. KING

Executive Director Executive Director

The American Legion AMVETS (American Veterans)

THOMAS MILLER DAVID W.GORMAN

Executive Director Executive Director

Blinded Veterans Association Washington Headquarters

Disabled American Veterans

HERB ROSENBLEETH JOHN P. LEONARD, III

National Executive Director Acting National Adjutant

Jewish War Veterans of the USA Military Order of the Purple Heart

of the U.S.A., Inc.

President-elect Barack Obama

January 9, 2009

Page 3

HOMER TOWNSEND ROBERT WALLACE

Executive Director Executive Director

Paralyzed Veterans of America Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United

States

RICHARD F. WEIDMAN

Director of Government Relations

Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc.

c: Veterans Affairs Secretary-designee Eric Shinseki

OMB Director-designee Peter Orzag

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

House Minority Leader John Boehner

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Ranking Member Steve Buyer

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye

Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey

House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Jerry Lewis

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad

Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Judd Gregg

House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt

House Budget Committee Ranking Member Paul Ryan


DAV and Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform Call on Obama to Change VA Funding Process



In a letter sent this week to the President-elect, DAV, along with the eight other VSOs comprising the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform, called on Obama to fulfill his campaign promise to change the way veterans’ health care is funded. The Partnership reminded the President-elect that under the current appropriations process, VA has received its annual budget for health care beyond the start of the new fiscal year in 19 of the last 22 years. During the campaign, Obama wrote that the time has come to “…end the unpredictability and inadequacy of VA’s discretionary funding process and instead, use an advanced appropriations process that would allow Congress to provide VA health care dollars in advanced and allow for improved planning and predictability.” The Partnership asked President-elect Obama to include advance appropriations for VA medical care in his first budget request.



VA Secretary-designee Shinseki Endorses Advance Appropriations in Run Up to Confirmation Hearings



A pair of news stories published this week discussed VA Secretary-designee Gen. Eric Shinseki’s support for advanced appropriations for VA health care as well as other issues he will be asked about during his Senate confirmation hearing on January 14.



  • The Associated Press (“Shinseki Pledges to Fix Gaps in Veterans’ Care”) reported about the contents of a questionnaire completed by Shinseki in which he “urged Congress to set VA funding a year in advance to minimize political pressures” because the current VA funding system “created ‘significant management difficulties’ that delayed medical care.”
  • Congressional Quarterly ("Common Threads in Questions for Shinseki") suggested that Shinseki-confirmation hearings would likely include questions about the Secretary-designee’s support for VA health funding reform. The article also discussed expectations that Shinseki’s questioning would include a discussion of his ideas about how to better treat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI).


About the Stand Up for Veterans Initiative

Stand Up for Veterans is an initiative of the Disabled American Veterans, an organization of 1.4 million disabled veterans who are focused on building better lives for disabled veterans and their families. The initiative seeks to find public policy solutions for all veterans, particularly those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have incurred devastating injuries and disabilities, including traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological wounds of war. Please visit www.standup4vets.org to learn more about this effort.




Stand up for veterans. They stood up for us.