By Meghashyam Mali - 05/27/12 03:48 PM EDT
Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wash), chairwoman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs committee, on Sunday said lawmakers needed to better address the long-term funding needs of Iraq and Afghan war veterans over the coming decades.
“We weren’t prepared for a war that’s lasted this long with that many soldiers who had repeated deployments,” said Murray on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“This is a question our country needs to come to grips with,” she said. “This is not just going to be what do we next year or what do we need as we pull our soldiers from Iraq.
“The costs of ten years of war on a specific population are going to be felt for decades. We need to say: Do we have the resources in this country to provide for those men and women and their families for a long time to come. And that question hasn’t been answered.
“We sent our troops to war without paying for it, now we’re bringing them home without saying how we are going to pay for it,” said Murray.
But the Washington state senator said veterans’ benefits would not be threatened by automatic spending cuts set in motion by last August’s debt-ceiling deal and set to take effect early next year.
“We believe veterans’ benefits are protected under that as they should be,” Murray said. “We’ve asked these men and women to go to war, they should not be making the sacrifice.”
Murray acknowledged that there were still many problems including the long waits many veterans experience before being approved for benefits. But she said many of these issues arose because of the complicated injuries brought about by modern warfare.
“It is such a complex problem and I’m not going to give anybody excuses, but I do need to remind all of us that the injuries that our soldiers are coming home with today, what they are living through that previous generations of warriors did not survive, are very complex,” said Murray.
“But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing what we can do,” she added. “They’re complex cases so rating them and giving the right disability rating is complex.”
She acknowledged that having veterans wait up to a year for benefits was “not acceptable” and said lawmakers were working to streamline the process and insure veterans received the right level of care.
“We’ve made progress, we have a long way to go and we cannot forget.”