Thursday, September 16, 2004


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal appeals court Tuesday ruled that the U.S. government does not owe free lifetime medical care to World War II and Korean War veterans who agreed to serve 20 years in exchange, despite promises made to them when they were in the armed forces.

The ruling represents a victory for the federal government, which had argued the veterans were not entitled to the benefits. The ruling will potentially save the government billions of dollars in health care costs.

The 9-4 ruling by the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., overturns a ruling by a three-judge appeals panel in February, 2001, which ruled that the veterans were entitled to the lifetime health care based on the military's promises…

WASHINGTON (AP) - The top official of the American Legion, which represents nearly 3 million wartime veterans, said Wednesday that President Bush let down all men and women who served in the Armed Forces when he canceled funds for their medical care.

Bush announced Wednesday that he would not release a $5.1 billion bundle in emergency spending because Congress, attaching an all-or-nothing condition, lumped in millions of dollars in programs that Bush did not request and that were unrelated to the bill's homeland security mission.

Included in the package that Bush rejected was $275 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs to reduce backlogs at the nation's VA medical centers.

More than 300,000 veterans new to the VA system are on waiting lists — some more than one year long — for the initial medical exams they need in order to qualify for prescription drug benefits, said Richard Santos, national commander of the American Legion…

WASHINGTON (AP) - Thousands of veterans are being turned away from Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics because of shortages in money and staff, a congressional panel was told Tuesday.

"People are literally waiting until someone else dies before they can be taken care of," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., chairman of the House Government subcommittee on national security, veterans affairs and international relations.

In Connecticut, beds in the VA's acute care psychiatric unit were slashed from over 200 to 30, forcing patients to wait for days for emergency treatment, said Edmund J. Burke, coordinator of veterans' services for the state's Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. A VA day program for the mentally ill has a 51 percent staff shortage, Burke said.

In Florida, more than 42,000 veterans are on waiting lists to see a primary care doctor, said Republican Rep. Dave Weldon…

Pentagon rejects raising retiree drug costs, for now.

Defense Department officials have defeated a White House budget initiative that would have raised prescription fees for military retirees, their spouses and survivors next October. The plan included imposing first-ever co-payments on retiree prescriptions filled at base pharmacies.

And the last salvo, from a reliable source:

Bush Failed to Fully Fund Veterans Health Care. Bush's 2005 budget falls more than $2.6 billion short of the amount needed to fully fund quality veterans' health care, according to The Independent Budget, an annual collective assessment by four veterans’ service organizations of the funding levels and policy changes needed at VA. [AMVETS Release, 2/3/04; VFW Release, 2/2/04]

Bush Administration Calls For Total Closure of Three Veterans Hospitals, Partial Closure of Eight Others. In May 2004, the Administration decided to push for the closure of hospitals in Brecksville, OH; Gulfport, MS; and, Highland Drive, PA. Eight VA hospitals will be partially closed. In most cases, inpatient care will move to larger hospitals, leaving behind an outpatient clinic or long-term-care beds. The Administration is planning partial closures in Knoxville, IA; Canandaigua, NY; Livermore, CA; Montrose, NY; Kerrville, TX; Saginaw, MI; Ft. Wayne, IN; and Butler, PA. In 2003, the Bush Administration proposed the closure of seven hospitals in its efforts to “restructure” the Department of Veterans Affairs. [USA Today, 5/7/04; AP, 8/4/03, 10/28/03, 12/16/03]

Spending on Prescription Drugs Has More than Doubled Over Five Years. The amount spent on prescription drugs has more than doubled over the past five years, from $87 billion in 1998 to $184 billion in 2003. Americans are spending more on prescription drugs today than ever before. [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, National Health Expenditure Projections, Feb. 2004]

Bush Cut Waiting List By Eliminating Veterans. The Bush Administration boasts of cutting waitlists for VA health care, but they have done so by excluding nearly 500,000 veterans (Priority 7 and 8) from enrolling in VA health care. [Federal Register, Part 4 – CFR Part 17, 1/17/03]

Bush Tried to Impose New Costs on Middle-Income Vets. Bush’s 2005 budget will institute a new annual $250 enrollment fee and an increase in prescription drug co-pays from $7 to $15 for middle-income veterans. In 2003, The Bush Administration publicly opposed Senate efforts to block increases in health care costs for veterans, including a new $250 annual enrollment fee for VA medical care, a proposed increase in pharmaceutical co-pays, and the Senate's addition of $1.3 billion in emergency funding for medical benefits. And in December 2001, Bush more than tripled the prescription co-payments for nonservice-connected veterans from $2 to $7. [CQ, 2/2/04; Statement of Administrative Policy, 11/12/03; The Times Leader, 10/9/03]

Bush Refused to Help Out Veterans with Rising Health Care Costs. The Bush Administration publicly opposed Senate efforts to block increases in health care costs for veterans, including a new $250 annual enrollment fee for VA medical care, a proposed increase in pharmaceutical co-pays, and the Senate's addition of $1.3 billion in emergency funding for medical benefits. The letter is dated Nov. 12, less than 24 hours after Bush laid a wreath in Arlington. [Statement of Administrative Policy, 11/12/03]

Future Vets Cuts Planned: Recently a leaked OMB memo showed that the Bush Administration plans to cut veterans funding after the election. The secret memo showed that the VA should expect $900 million in cuts in FY2006.

I have to get in a lot of blogging since I'll be in NYC for a few weeks.


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