Veterans Association of America, Inc.
Thursday, May 28, 2020
Serving those who've served this Country

Vets Take Another Blow From VA Healthcare

March 13, 2006

Plan to hike vets’ health fees hinges upon Senate vote

By Rick Maze
Times staff writer

A Senate vote is planned Tuesday night that could determine whether the Bush administration will be able to raise pharmacy co-payments for veterans and to charge enrollment fees for care.

The vote will come on S Con Res. 83, the concurrent budget resolution that sets federal spending priorities.

As part of the 2007 federal budget, the Bush administration proposes — for the fourth consecutive year — to increase the current $7 payment charged for a 30-day supply of prescription drugs and to charge a new $225 annual enrollment fee for Priority 7 and Priority 8 veterans . These two categories, the lowest in priority for treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, are designated for veterans who do not have service-connected disabilities and who have at least modest incomes.

In the House, bipartisan opposition has surfaced to the administration plan. Both the Republican chairman and Democrat ranking member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee have announced they oppose having the fee increases in the 2007 budget.

In the Senate, however, the plan has some support. The Senate Budget Committee included the Bush proposal in the federal spending plan it approved on March 9 by a partisan 11-10 vote . Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, said he’s willing to accept the Bush administration proposal.

“During a time of high deficits and restrained spending in every account unrelated to national security, the President's proposal to shift a small portion of the cost of funding record growth in VA's budget onto lower priority veterans is reasonable,” Craig said in a letter to the budget committee.

Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Montana, announced Monday that he’ll proposal an amendment on Tuesday that will increase VA spending by $823 million for 2007 , an amount that would make the enrollment fees and increase in pharmacy co-payments unnecessary.

A vote on Burns’ amendment is scheduled for Tuesday night.

Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, ranking Democrat on the veterans’ committee, also will have an amendment to the budget to increase veterans’ spending but details were not available Monday night.