August 01, 2002
WASHINGTON-Veterans hospitals and clinics have been ordered to halt
efforts aimed at recruiting new veterans into the health care system
because of a budget crunch, a move that drew some sharp criticism.
"I am directing each network director to ensure that no marketing
activities to enroll new veterans occur within your networks,"
Miller, a Department of Veterans Affairs undersecretary, wrote in a July
18 memo to the VA's 23 health network directors.
Word of the directive prompted Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a Vietnam
veteran, to call for Miller's removal. In a letter Wednesday, he also
asked President Bush to direct the agency to overturn the anti-outreach
Citing a tight budget and overwhelming demand, Miller said in her memo
that marketing health care services with health fairs, open houses or
enrollment displays was "inappropriate." Other prohibited
include "generalized mailings to veterans, local newspaper or
articles encouraging veterans to enroll or similar public service
announcements," Miller said.
Veteran Affairs spokesman Phil Budahn said veterans seeking emergency
care wouldn't be turned away. In many parts of the country, veterans
have to wait months for a routine checkup or for care for a chronic
condition. Because of that, "We just decided it was unfair to
aggressively try and recruit people just to have them come wait in a
line for months," Budahn said.
The crunch stems in part from a law passed by Congress in 1996 that
opened VA medical facilities to nearly all veterans-not just the very
poor and those with service-related disabilities. Congress last week
approved an additional $417 million for VA health care in the current
budget year, which ends Sept. 30.
WASHINGTON-Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by
Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) is a
step toward providing dependable, stable, and sustained funding for
health care, according to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
The Veterans Health Care Funding Guarantee Act of 2002 (H.R. 5250) calls
a fundamental change in the way government funding is provided for the
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical care system. "This
shift in VA
health care funding from a discretionary to a mandatory program would
guarantee adequate resources to care for sick and disabled
DAV National Commander George H. Steese, Jr.
Ask your local Congressmen and Senators to support this bill and if
sign on as co-sponsors.