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--- Article --

VA chief: Do not increase VA budget, pass it

By Rick Maze - Staff writer

Posted : Friday Aug 31, 2007 14:41:45 EDT

The Department of Veterans Affairs does not need more money; it just

needs a budget to quickly pass Congress, VA Secretary Jim Nicholson

said in a letter to key lawmakers.

Nicholson, who will be leaving the VA post by Oct. 1, the start of

the fiscal year, says in the letter, released Friday, that time is

short to avoid disruption in veterans' programs.

Passing a funding bill by the start of the fiscal year, which begins

Oct. 1, "is essential" to avoid the problems that would result from

operating under a temporary budget, where spending is capped and new

programs cannot be started.

"I know you agree that we owe it to veterans to complete work on

time," Nicholson said, noting that when Congress returns to work

Sept. 4, there will be just 19 legislative days before the new fiscal

year begins.

The House already has passed its version of the veterans' spending

bill and the Senate expects to begin debate on its version Sept. 4.

Nicholson asked lawmakers to resist adding more money to the $39.4

billion requested by President Bush. The Bush request, a $2.9 billion

increase over the 2007 budget, is part of "a fiscally responsible

path to fund the nation's highest veterans priorities," Nicholson

said.

"I am confident the top-line amount set for VA would enable the

department to successfully accomplish our noble mission of serving

our nation's veterans with the quality and commitment Americans

expect," he said.

The letter is addressed to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., and Rep. Chet

Edwards, D-Tex., the chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations

committees responsible for preparing the VA spending bill. Johnson

will be returning to the Senate on Sept. 4 after a slow recovery from

a brain hemorrhage in December that left him unable to work. Sen.

Jack Reed, D-R.I., has been filling in as acting chairman.

The House version of the VA spending bill includes $3.8 billion more

than the Bush administration requested, which prompted a warning from

the White House's Office of Management and Budget that it would veto

other appropriations bills unless cuts in other programs were found

to offset the increase for veterans' programs.

http://www.navytime s.com/news/ 2007/08/military _VAbudget_ nicholson_ 0708

31w/

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