Make VA Health Care a Budget Requisite (Rep. Phil Hare)

After my election to Congress, I worked hard to get a seat on the Veterans' Affairs Committee so I could fight for the brave men and women of our armed forces.

After nearly 5 months in office, I am proud to say that we have made significant progress.

Congress recently passed a budget that increases VA health care by $6.7 billion over 2007 figures and $3.6 billion over President Bush's request. In fact, our budget included the largest annual increase for veterans funding in the 77 year history of the VA.

We are working to get Filipino Veterans and Merchant Marines the compensation they deserve.

We are working to provide state of the art treatment for traumatic brain injuries.

And since not all wounds are visible, we are fighting to get our veterans the mental health counseling they so desperately need.

I believe we need to go even further. Shortly before Memorial Day, I introduced the Assured Funding for Veterans Health Care Act of 2007, a bill to make VA health care a mandatory spending item within the federal budget.

VA health care is currently the only major federal health program that is not funded through mandatory appropriations. With a disability backlog of 600,000, staffing shortages at our vet centers, and many service members serving their third and fourth tours, the time for assured funding is now.