The AP/Arizona Daily Star on Tuesday examined how "[a]t least tens of thousands of veterans with noncritical medical issues could suffer delayed or even denied care in coming years" if "the White House is serious about its proposed budget." Under President Bush's proposal, the budget for veterans' medical services -- which has increased 69% since President Bush took office in 2000 -- would increase to $27.7 billion in 2007 from $24.5 billion in 2006, but it would be cut 3% in 2008 and would "hover below $27 billion for the next four years," the AP/Daily Star reports. According to the AP/Daily Star, the cuts, which have not been officially released by the White House but have been outlined in documents obtained by the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, "are so Draconian that it seems to some that the White House is simply making them up to make its long-term deficit figures look better." In addition, the "cuts would come even though more and more people are trying to enter the system and as the number of people wounded in Iraq keeps rising," the AP/Daily Star reports. The Bush administration has said it crafts its spending policies one year at a time and that long-term budget figures are subject to change. Department of Veterans Affairs spokesperson Scott Hogenson said, "We don't make multiyear discretionary funding requests. We look at our needs and assess our needs on a year-to-year basis." Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) said, "Either the administration is proposing gutting VA health care over the next five years or it is not serious about its own budget," adding, "If the proposals aren't serious, then that would undermine the administration's argument that they intend to reduce the deficit in half over the next several years." Scott Milburn, the White House budget office spokesperson, said, "The country can meet the goal of cutting the deficit in half and still invest in key programs for vulnerable Americans, and claims to the contrary aren't supported by the facts of recent budget history" (AP/Arizona Daily Star, 2/28).

"Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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