T ransgender A merican
V eterans A ssociation

House Committee on Veterans Affairs
Steve Buyer, Chairman
February 23, Press Release

HOUSE VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE ADOPTS SLIDING SCALE FOR ENROLLMENT FEES

Rejects doubling co-pays

Washington, D.C.:  Ensuring that disabled, injured, low income and special needs veterans are given the highest priority, Chairman Steve Buyer (IN-04), on behalf of the majority of House Veterans Affairs Committee submitted its views and estimates of the Presidents FY 2006 budget submission to the Committee on the Budget.  Of the Presidents proposals, the Committee rejected the doubling of prescription drug co-payments and adopted enrollment fees of Priority 7 and 8 veterans on a sliding scale based on means.   In total, medical services is increased by $317.2 million over the Presidents budget.

In establishing priority categories for veterans health care, Congress believes that the same military values that guided servicemembers on active duty should define how services and assistance are provided to them as veterans.  These views and estimates take into consideration the present budgetary constraints, the aging veteran population, as well as the influx of veterans into the system as this nation continues to fight the war on terror throughout the world, Buyer stated.

The Committee recommends a $230 enrollment fee for Priority 7 veterans to bring balance and equity into the system.  The Committee recommends a four tiered enrollment fee for Priority 8 veterans based on their income above the geographic means test.  The fees would be: Tier 1 -- $230; Tier 2 -- $250; Tier 3 -- $350; Tier 4 -- $500.  The Committee will work with VA to achieve the appropriate income tiers.  These enrollment fees would apply to both veterans who are currently enrolled and new enrollees.

The 1996 eligibility reform of Public Law 104-262 was based on assumptions that providing VA health care to lower priority veterans would be budget neutral and at best revenue enhancing.  These assumptions have now proven to be in error.  The VA has $3 billion in uncollected debts.  Therefore, it is time for Congress to focus its commitment to veterans based on the clear priorities and ageless military values that should define the VA health care system, Buyer added.

The Committee recommends an increase of $12.6 million for medical and prosthetic research projects above the Presidents budget request, emphasizing his hope that research within the VA targets those who need it the most.  To ensure that our national cemeteries are maintained as the shrines that they are, the Committee recommends an additional $45.6 million in minor construction to begin a five-year, $300 million National Shrine Commitment project to repair and restore existing national cemeteries.

Chairman Buyers recommendations were made on behalf of the Republican members of the Committee.  These recommendations are in line with the objectives of this Committee to ensure that the veterans most in need have priority for appropriate services and assistance.  The Committee intends to protect the investment of tax dollars in veterans programs by holding executive departments accountable for their performance, by stressing quality and timeliness, and by streamlining programs and infrastructure, Chairman Buyer commented.

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