Veterans Win Budget Battle

Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
Tuesday, 25 March 2003

Cuts in veterans benefits are off the table -- for now. Leaders of the nation's three largest veterans organizations today praised members of Congress who fought alongside them to keep veterans' health care, pensions and disability compensation off the chopping block.

Under an agreement brokered by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Smith, House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle agreed to "accept a level of discretionary and mandatory spending for veterans programs at least as high as reported by the Senate Budget Committee." The House-approved spending plan provides an approximate $3 billion increase for veterans health care as well as maintaining mandatory spending for veterans compensation and benefits.

"For the freedom we cherish, the nation owes a debt of gratitude to patriots past and present, and cutting veterans benefits is no way to pay that debt," American Legion National Commander Ronald F. Conley said. "I commend all members of Congress who oppose cutting veterans benefits, particularly in this time of war. I especially thank Chairman Chris Smith and VA Health Subcommittee Chairman Rob Simmons. They worked tirelessly to exempt veterans benefits from across-the-board cuts that were in the Budget Committee's resolution."

"When the chips are down, that's when you get to know who your true friends are," said Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander in Chief Ray Sisk. "There is no doubt Chairman Smith is a friend of America's veterans."

"America's veterans are grateful to those members of the House who stood by them in opposing deep cuts in veterans programs," said Edward R. Heath Sr., National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans. "They are to be commended for the courage of their convictions."

Joining Chairman Smith and Rep. Simmons were fellow Republicans Rick Renzi of Arizona, Michael Bilirakis of Florida, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina and Charles W. Pickering Jr. of Mississippi.

In an apparently persuasive March 14 letter to congressional leadership, the veterans advocates wrote: "Congress must rethink drastic cuts in benefits and services for disabled veterans at a time when we have thousands of our servicemembers in harm's way fighting terrorism around the world and when we are sending thousands more of our sons and daughters to fight a war against Iraq."

For more information, or to contact Disabled American Veterans (DAV), see their website at: www.dav.org

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