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Vets Push For Health Funding

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Vets push for health funding


BY JESSICA JOHNSONThe Post and Courier

Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion are pushing once again for Congress to approve mandatory funding for veterans' health care.

Marion Truscello, the DAV state commander, said the current discretionary funding causes the Department of Veterans Affairs to suffer. Each year the agency competes with others for federal dollars.

Last year, the 109th Congress failed to pass the budget, leaving the veterans health care system in limbo, Truscello said.

The budget was approved in February, months after the new fiscal year began. Mandatory funding would alleviate the effects of budget wars and place veterans' health-care spending on par with other entitlement health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, said Charlie Pettigrew, DAV state senior vice commander.

"It's the No. 1 issue," Pettigrew said.

Lawrence Biro, the regional director for the network that includes Charleston's Ralph H. Johnson Veteran Affairs Medical Center, said some say it would improve health care for veterans and others don't.

As part of the administration for the Southeast network, Biro doesn't determine which is better. Those decisions are left to Congress.

Generally, Republicans don't favor the idea. R. James Nicholson, secretary for Veterans Affairs, who toured the Charleston hospital Friday, has said that discretionary funding is better because it is flexible.

Groups such as the American Legion, AMVETS, the Fleet Reserve Association and others have typically pushed for mandatory veteran funding without success, but leaders of those groups say mandatory funding remains a top priority.

"I am hoping the new Congress might do some things," Truscello said.

Reach Jessica Johnson at jjohnson@postandcourier.com or 745-5860

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