20 February 2009

Statement by Congressman Chet Edwards in Response to Criticism of Veterans Funding in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. Representative Chet Edwards released the following statement in response to criticism of veterans funding in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"It has been said that it is easier to kick down a barn than to build one. That appears to be the case regarding criticisms of veterans funding in this bill.

Regarding Congressman Buyer's criticism of the bill, let me point out that the Democratic Congress has increased veterans health care and benefits funding by more in two years than the Republican-led House did in 12 years, including his years as Chairman of the VA Committee.

In 2007 and 2008 alone, the Democratic-led Congress increased veterans funding by $16.3 billion, which is more than House Republicans did collectively from 1995 through 2004.

In addition to the $16.3 billion increase by Democrats in just two years, we also passed a historic 21st Century GI Education bill, which matched the education benefits of the World War II GI Bill.

Having passed a new GI Education bill and $16.3 billion in new funding in 2007 and 2008 for veterans, the 2009 stimulus bill adds $1.4 billion in additional funding to modernize our VA hospitals and $2.98 billion to modernize DOD hospitals, barracks and day care centers.

For Republicans such as Mr. Buyer to vote against and criticize the additional $1.4 billion for veterans after underfunding VA programs for over a decade makes his criticisms look more partisan than substantive.

The difference is clear. Democrats in just over two years have provided unprecedented increases in funding for VA programs, and Republicans' record for veterans never matched their rhetoric. That's a fact."

Military Construction Funding in H.R.1 Conference Report:

Hospitals: $1.33 billion to recapitalize our aging military hospitals and ambulatory centers. Many of these facilities are 40 or even 50 years old, and are not suited to current medical standards and practices.

Troop and family housing: $335 million to build new barracks and dormitories for our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen as well as further investments in quality family housing.

Child Care: $240 million for new child development centers on base. These facilities will help military spouses hold down jobs, and provide employment opportunities for caregivers.

National Guard: $100 million for the Army and Air National Guard. This will support our reservists who have been heavily deployed in recent years, as well as States who need Guard units for disaster assistance and homeland security.

Homeowners Assistance Fund: $555 million for assistance to military homeowners, including wounded warriors and surviving spouses, who have been impacted by the housing crisis.

Wounded Warriors: $100 million for warrior transition complexes to provide services to wounded warriors and their families.

Energy Conservation Investment Program: $120 million to make military facilities more energy efficient and save taxpayers money.

Veterans Affairs Funding in H.R. 1 Conference Report:

Medical Facilities: $1.0 billion for non-recurring maintenance, including energy projects, to address deficiencies and avoid serious maintenance problems at the 153 VA hospitals.

National Cemetery Administration: $50 million for memorial maintenance, including those identified in the 2002 Millennium Act report to Congress, for the National Cemetery Administration. These funds will enable the National Cemetery Administration to work toward an established set of cemetery standards of appearance throughout the system.

Claims Processors: $150 million for a temporary increase in claims processing staff.

Information Technology Systems: $50 million to improve automation of benefits processing.

State Extended Care Facilities: $150 million for grants to States for extended care facilities.

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