(Washington, D.C.)—Bobby L. Harnage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), today issued the following statement declaring his indignation at President Bush’s refusal to release the FY 2002 emergency supplemental funds for veterans’ medical care:
“By failing to sign the release of the supplemental funds as passed by Congress, the President slashed $275 million earmarked for the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) which was badly needed to provide life saving medical care for our nation’s veterans.
"I am shocked that President Bush is willing to sacrifice veterans’ health care. Currently veterans are being denied access to medical care because the DVA simply does not have enough staff to meet the increasing demand for care.
“Congress recognized that the DVA needed $417 million in additional funds for this fiscal year just to maintain the status quo in services. The President is refusing to release two-thirds of these funds ($275 million) and, as a result, veterans will suffer.
“It is clear that inadequate Bush Administration funding has left the DVA with unacceptable and drastic choices about rationing care for veterans. The DVA health care system is reaching a breaking point.
“Nursing and medical staff are exhausted from seeing too many patients. Veterans are frustrated that they can’t even get an initial appointment for care. Homeless veterans and other vulnerable segments of the veteran population are being turned away from the DVA because there are no treatment beds to care for those with mental illness that was triggered or exacerbated by combat.
“By refusing to release desperately needed emergency funding for the DVA, President Bush is breaking a sacred trust between our government and the men and women who served our nation.”
AFGE represents 600,000 federal and DC government workers, including some 140,000 employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs. For more information about AFGE, log on to www.afge.org.