Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that by a vote of 427 to 0 the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed the Conference Report on H.R. 2528, the Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2006. The bill appropriates over $70 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I have always been strongly supportive of our veterans,” Faleomavaega said, “and I am disappointed that this Administration has always short-changed our veterans when it comes to the quality of health care and other benefits they deserve. Finally, Congress has taken a stand and recognized its responsibility to our veterans by providing critical funding to improve the lives of those who have risked their lives to protect our freedom.”
“I commend my good friend and colleague, Republican Congressman Chris Smith, former Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, who lost his Chairmanship for supporting exactly the increases in funding that are now included in this bill. I admire him for standing up for America’s veterans even at his own expense.”
“H.R. 2528 bill includes funding for Veterans Medical Services at $22.5 billion, an increase of $1.7 billion over FY 2005. Medical care has increased by 18% over the past two years. $2.2 billion is set aside for specialty mental health care. Veteran’s benefits are increased $1.9 billion over last year’s appropriation.”
“Other highlights include an additional $40 million dollars for VBA operation expenses to prevent staff reductions in processing disability claims benefits, the creation of three “Centers of Excellence” for Mental Health/PTSD medical care, and $85 million for state extended care facilities.”
“The funding provided by this bill, in addition to the new VA clinic which is expected to open in 2007 in American Samoa, will lead to significant improvements in health care for our local veterans. Again, only 156 new clinics will be established in the U.S. and one will be located in our Territory.”
“Simply put, the Democratic party has taken the lead on making sure America is a better place for our veterans and I am pleased to be a part of this initiative. As always, I salute our veterans for the many sacrifices they have made to safeguard our freedom and I will continue to do all that I can to make sure that they receive the health care and benefits they deserve,” Faleomavaega concluded.