2002-08-31 / Community

Smith Wants Increased

Funding For VA Hospitals

Funding For VA Hospitals

Saying New York State Veterans' Hospitals have been shortchanged, State Senator Malcolm A. Smith, the ranking minority member of the Senate's Veteran and Military Affairs Committee, announced that he has written United States Senate Veteran Affairs Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D - West Virginia), urging him to support legislation that would increase funding for New York State Veterans hospitals. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced the legislation.

The Veterans Equitable Resources Allocation (VERA) was passed in 1997 to address geographic inequities in the distribution of Veteran's Affairs allocations. Senator Smith noted, however, that the legislation has resulted in a loss of funding for Veterans' hospitals in the Northeast and Midwest.

Senator Smith noted that the number of Priority 7 veterans, those that do not have service related disabilities and whose incomes eligibility fall within a low-priority range, has risen from 4% to 22%.

The letter goes on to say that "VERA also does not consider the disparity in cost of living, across the nation. Since the cost of living is higher in New York City, VA facilities in the area and surrounding communities serve more Priority 7 veterans than similar facilities in lower cost of living areas....If VERA were to take regional cost of living into consideration, many deserving Priority 7 veterans would be relieved from this burdensome payment."

Senator Clinton noted in a letter to Veteran Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi that the cost of medical care in the Northeast is higher, owing to bigger, less-modern facilities here.

"I am hopeful that Senator Rockefeller will hear the concerns of veterans and their advocates throughout the Northeast and Midwest, and pass this important legislation, Senator Smith concluded.

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