VFW Commander-in-Chief Testifies Before Veterans’ Committees


Active member

March 16, 2004

In this issue:
1. VFW Commander-in-Chief Testifies Before Veterans’ Committees
2. Senate Approves Budget Resolution
3. House Holds Hearing on PTSD
4. Annual Legislative Conference a Success

1. VFW Commander Testifies Before Veterans’ Committees

VFW Commander-in-Chief Edward S. Banas, Sr. testified before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees. He presented the legislative goals of VFW to let Congress know where we stand on the issues.

Central to his testimony was the VA budget situation. Banas noted the access problems VA has faced: “Since 1996, the number of enrolled veterans has increased nearly 150%, yet funding has lagged far behind with only a 50% increase. An increasing demand that would delight any Wall Street investor has instead brought VA to the brink of disaster.”

He called on Congress to improve upon the President’s budget request and to provide full funding for VA health care. “Veterans have earned timely, high-quality health care, and we demand a budget that recognizes that all veterans, even those Category 8 veterans who are locked out of VA health care, must have access. The President's budget takes care of some while leaving others behind, and we look to you, the Congress, to ensure that the promises this nation made to its sons and daughters when it sent them to war are kept. We cannot leave any veteran behind.”

His testimony covered many important issues including an improved GI Bill, changes to the Survivor Benefits Program, equitable treatment for Reservists and National Guard and Concurrent Receipt.

To read the Command-in-Chief’s testimony:

2. Senate Approves Budget Resolution

The Senate approved its FY 2005 budget resolution last week on a 51-45 vote. S Con Res 95 provides a $2.6 billion increase in VA funding above last year’s amount. Senator Murkowski of Alaska introduced and secured passage of an amendment which increased funding to this level.

The $2.6 billion increase is in line with the House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees’ recommendations. We view it as a good starting point. VFW, along with the other members of the Independent Budget, have recommended a $4.3 billion increase in total VA discretionary funding, which includes $3.2 billion more for health care funding.

The House is now working on their budget resolution and, once approved, the differences between the two versions must be resolved.

The budget just serves as the framework of the process. It forms a rough estimate on how much funding is available to VA. The Appropriations Committees have the final say on how much money is actually allocated to the Department.

Two other important amendments were approved. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) proposed an amendment that would provide additional funding for TRICARE and GI Bill programs for reservists. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) secured passage of an amendment that eliminates the Social Security offset of the Survivor Benefits Program. Currently, surviving spouses of a military retiree who signed up for the program have their annuities dramatically reduced when they become eligible for Social Security.

Commander- In-Chief Banas spoke out in favor of these issues in his testimony before the Veterans’ Affairs Committees.

For the Senate roll call vote:

3. HVAC Hearing on PTSD

Last week, the House VA Committee’s Subcommittee on Health held a hearing that focused its attention on VA programs relating to the psychiatric and behavior health issues affecting those men and women returning from recent combat situations.

Dr. Robert H. Roswell, VA Under Secretary for Health and Dr. Harold Kudler, Co-Chair of the VA Under Secretary for Health’s Special Committee on PTSD, testified on behalf of VA.

According to Dr. Roswell, the potential for appearance of PTSD symptoms may be delayed for months or even years following the associated stressful event. He testified that VA has specialized programs in place, and with additional funding mandated by Congress in February 2004 for mental health programs, they are prepared to meet the challenges facing returning veterans.

For more on the hearing, go to the House Veterans Affairs' Committee website at:

4. Annual Legislative Conference a Success

VFW held its annual Legislative Conference last week and it was a smashing success!

Our National Legislative Committee Members and other VFW Officials stormed Capitol Hill to meet with their Senators and Congressmen to discuss VFW Priority Goals. The Legislative Committee attended a workshop where Congressman Rick Renzi briefed them on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s upcoming activities and legislation for this session. And speakers from both the Republican and Democratic National Committees’ gave them tips on how to get involved and have a voice in the upcoming elections.

Commander-in-Chief Banas’ testimony and a reception honoring Congressman Michael Bilirakis, Vice-Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, topped off the Conference. The reception allowed those VFW members another chance to meet one on one with the many members of Congress who attended to discuss important veterans’ issues.

The Legislative Conference gives VFW members from all 50 states and from around the world a chance to join together and raise awareness of the VFW and veterans’ issues.