(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) helped pass legislation through the full Senate that provides $109 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill passed by a 100-0 vote. The funding, which is included in the fiscal year 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs funding bill, is $150 million more than the President requested. The majority of the funding will go directly to health care services which will help cut wait-times, increase access to quality care and mental health services for our veterans.
Senator Murray also successfully fought for the bill to contain an unprecedented $48 billion in advanced appropriations to ensure a stable and uninterrupted source of funding for medical care for veterans.
"We have an obligation to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to serve our country and who now deserve nothing less than the full support of a grateful nation,” Senator Murray said. "This bill provides the VA with the resources they need to increase access, decrease wait times and hire and train the quality professionals who treat the unique wounds of war.”
Senator Murray also worked to ensure that the bill contained funding for women veterans and homeless veterans.
Women Veterans The spending bill includes $183 million for the Women Veterans Program to help meet the unique needs of women veterans. Senator Murray has been a leader in the United States Senate in fighting for women veterans, and recently introduced bi-partisan legislation designed to give the VA additional resources to help care for them.
“Women have stepped up to serve in our armed forces at unprecedented levels,” said Senator Murray. “I have been fighting to ensure that the VA has the resources it needs to deal with the unique needs of women veterans, and this funding is a strong step in that direction. As more women begin to transition home, and step back into lives as mothers, wives, and citizens, the VA must be there for them.”
Homeless Veterans The bill also includes over $3.2 billion for health care and support services for homeless veterans. Senator Murray has been working hard on this issue, and announced in June that last year’s funding supported 420 housing vouchers to Washington state homeless veterans into housing Senator Murray fought for $75 million nationwide to fund the HUD-VASH program in a Senate spending bill last year, and was able to include that amount in this year’s bill as well.
“Too many of our veterans have sacrificed for our nation but now sleeps on the street,” said Senator Murray. “This funding will allow the VA to continue their efforts to provide all veterans with housing and the dignity that comes with it.”
Senator Murray added specific language to the bill calling on the VA to include funding for construction of a long-term care facility on the Walla Walla VA Medical Center grounds. She also included language supporting the VA’s decision to open a CBOC in South Puget Sound to increase access to these deserving veterans, as well as language encouraging the VA to continue and expand its ongoing study of women’s issues, create a certification program for clinicians working with victims of sexual trauma and expand outreach to ensure these veterans are aware of the benefits they have earned.
The language that Murray inserted reads:
Walla Walla State Veterans Home The Committee is aware of the collaborative efforts of the Walla Walla VA Medical Center and the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs to meet the long term care needs of veterans in southeast Washington and northern Oregon by building a long-term care facility on the Walla Walla VA Medical Center grounds. The Committee supports the creation of a jointly operated veterans’ home in Walla Walla, Washington, and encourages the VA to promptly review this application and place it on the priority list for funding from the Grants for construction of State extended care facilities account in fiscal year 2010.
South Puget Sound CBOC The Committee is aware of the lack of access to primary care, mental health and specialty care for thousands of veterans living in Lewis and Thurston Counties, Washington and supports the VA’s decision to open a CBOC in South Puget Sound to increase access to these deserving veterans. The Committee urges the VA to expedite the process of opening the South Puget Sound CBOC in order to meet the critical needs of these deserving veterans.
Services for Women Veterans The Committee is aware that the percentage of women veterans receiving care at the VA is expected to double in the next 5 years. Many of these women veterans have experienced combat and will present needs that the Department has likely not seen before in the veteran population. The Committee remains dedicated to ensuring that the evolving needs of women veterans are met. Accordingly, the Committee encourages the VA to continue and expand its ongoing study of women’s issues, create a certification program for clinicians working with victims of sexual trauma and expand outreach to ensure these veterans are aware of the benefits they have earned.