News from the Chairman of the
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs


CONTACT: Jeff Schrade

Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman says "NO" to doubling prescription drug co-pays and "NO" to cutting off funds for Veterans Nursing Homes.

(Washington, DC) Just three days after receiving testimony on the President's proposed budget for the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Sen. Larry Craig, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, today rejected both doubling prescription drug co-pays for veterans and decreased spending on state nursing homes for veterans.

He also called on Congress to provide $244 million more on medical services for veterans above what the president had proposed. In addition he expressed support for the president's $200 million proposed increases in funding for mental health services and prosthetic care for returning soldiers.

"With the smell of gunsmoke still in the air in Iraq, we need to make sure we have enough money to address the medical needs of today's veterans and tomorrow's heroes," said Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs committee.

The senator also supports an increase in funding to pay for emergency medical services obtained by enrolled veterans at non-VA hospitals.  "This is particularly important in rural states like mine where veterans hospitals can be hundreds of miles away and inaccessible for emergency treatment," Craig said.

Craig made his recommendations on behalf of Republican members of the Veterans' Committee in a letter to the Senate Budget Committee. Senate Democrats are sending another letter to the Budget Committee clarifying their views.

Sen. Craig and his fellow Republicans rejected the administration's request that Congress raise the $7 co-pay for prescription medications to $15 per prescription. Republicans also rejected the VA's effort to restrict payments states receive for veterans nursing homes, calling the proposal an "unsound idea."

Committee Republicans did agree in their letter to the Budget Committee to approve a $250 a year "enrollment fee" for higher income veterans who have no service connected injuries.

"The Committee fully appreciates the concerns raised by veterans service organization witnesses at the Committee's hearing on February 15, 2005," Craig wrote. "But we are faced this year with an influx of new, highest-priority, combat veterans at a time of flattening appropriations. VA must garner supplemental funding from some source, and we see no easy options. Thus, we do not object to the Administration's proposal that non-service-connected, non-poor, veterans make a modest contribution of $250 per year to defray the cost of their, and their fellow veterans', care."

Jeff Schrade, Communications Director
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho), Chairman
412 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Direct: 202-224-9093
Fax: 202-228-5655