The House bill calls for the largest VA budget increase in the agency’s history.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
CAMPBELL — Jim Stankish of Youngstown, a retired Marine, wonders how the federal government asks its citizens to risk life and limb defending this nation and then fails to provide enough funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“It’s like swearing at a nun,” he said. “It’s sacred. It’s something you should never do.”
That’s why Stankish, a former lance corporal who served from 1957 to 1960, was pleased to hear U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan talk Thursday about the House’s Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill. The bill would increase the VA’s annual budget from $36.5 billion to $43.9 billion.
Ryan, of Niles, D-17th, discussed the bill at Campbell’s American Legion Post 560.
“I want you, as veterans, to judge our actions,” said Ryan, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. “Our actions hopefully speak louder than our words. We all give speeches, but it’s our actions that mean more than our words.”
The House bill calls for the largest increase for the VA in its 77-year history.
The bill, Ryan said, provides additional money for:
UVA facility improvements and construction.
UThe creation of new programs to fight substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.
UThe establishment of an inspector general for the VA to improve services and to make sure money is spent wisely.
UThe hiring of more case workers to reduce the waiting time for benefit cases to be resolved, and for more doctors and nurses.
UThe development of shelters for homeless veterans.
The House has to reconcile its bill with the one passed by the U.S. Senate that increases the VA’s budget to $43.7 billion, $200 million less than what the House wants to spend. Also, there could be a conflict with the Bush administration, which proposed a VA budget of $40.1 billion.
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget has said bills could be vetoed by Bush if money isn’t found to fund increased spending.
The Democratic-led Congress wants the country to eliminate $14 billion in subsidies it gives to oil companies to fund the VA and other worthy programs, Ryan said.
“If [Bush] vetoed a bill after sending troops to Iraq, it would be the most disgraceful thing he could do,” Ryan said.
Ryan wants the bill to be signed into law in October, but wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t happen until the early part of next year.
Robert H. Brothers of Niles, who served as an Army staff sergeant in the Korean War, said increasing veterans’ benefits is long overdue.
“I really don’t think the government has ever lived up to its responsibility of taking care of veterans,” he said after hearing Ryan.