[F]unding for veterans is going up twice as fast under Bush as it did under Clinton. And the number of veterans getting health benefits is going up 25% under Bush's budgets. That's hardly a cut.
Funding for veterans benefits has accelerated in the Bush administration, as seen in the following table.
In Bush’s first three years funding for the Veterans Administration increased 27%. And if Bush's 2005 budget is approved, funding for his full four-year term will amount to an increase of 37.6%.
In the eight years of the Clinton administration the increase was 31.7%
Those figures include mandatory spending for such things as payments to veterans for service-connected disabilities, over which Congress and presidents have little control. But Bush has increased the discretionary portion of veterans funding even more than the mandatory portion has increased. Discretionary funding under Bush is up 30.2%.
By any measure, veterans funding is going up faster under Bush than under Clinton.
While it's false to say the veterans budget has been cut, and false to say that any veteran getting benefits has been cut off, it is true that funding is not growing as rapidly as demand for benefits, or as rapidly as veterans groups would like.
Veterans groups are unanimous in calling for more money than the administration or Congress have provided. Four groups -- AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States -- have joined to ask for $3.7 billion more than the administration is requesting for next year.
Even Bush's own Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi -- in a rare break with administration protocol -- told a House committee Feb. 4 that had asked for more money than Bush was willing to seek from Congress. "I asked OMB for $1.2 billion more than I received," he said, referring to the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Veterans groups have called for "mandatory funding" of medical benefits, which would automatically appropriate whatever funds are required to meet demand. Kerry has endorsed mandatory funding, which would allow middle-income veterans with no service-connected disability to resume signing up.
The administration also has proposed to make the VA's prescription drug benefit less generous. Currently many veterans pay $7 for each one-month supply of medication. The administration proposes to increase that to $15, and require a $250 annual fee as well. Congress rejected a similar proposal last year. The proposal wouldn't affect those -- such as veterans with a disability rated at 50% or more -- who currently aren't required to make any co-payments.
The previous wounded/dead counts are irrelevant except to show how far field medicine has come or how bad Iraqi insurgents are at finishing their intended job. It should be the former, because the Viet Cong had a reputation for being more interested in wounding to the point of inaction-- not because they were especially humane, but because they knew there was a certain efficiency in it and they were really well organized.
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