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AFGE applauds proposed budget increase in Veteran care

02.22.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

AFGE applauds proposed budget increase in Veteran care

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 4th- The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Union and its National Veteran’s Affairs Council applauded the Obama Administration’s proposed funding increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The White House’s proposed fiscal year 2011 budget provides $57 billion in increases for the Veterans Administration.

AFGE is the largest federal employee union representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

The union represents workers of two of the biggest employers in Northeastern Pennsylvania including workers of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Wilkes-Barre Township in Luzerne County and the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Monroe County. AFGE Local 1647 represents Tobyhanna Army Deport employees.

AGFE Local 1699 President Yolanda Riggsbee complained for years about funding cuts for Veterans Affairs during the Bush Administration. Local 1699 represents workers employed at the Veterans Hospital.

For more than two decades, AFGE, which represents 180,000 employees in the Veterans Administration, has joined veterans’ groups in calling for funding of veterans’ services.

The union believes the release of this year’s budget is an especially momentous occasion for veterans and its dedicated workforce. The Fiscal Year 2011 budget marks the first two-year funding cycle for the Veteran’s Administration health care system.

In October 2009 AFGE officials stood with veterans’ groups at the White House signing of Public Law 111-81, funding reform legislation that ensures more predictable, adequate funding for the Veteran’s Administration health care by authorizing the United States Congress to provide health care dollars one year ahead of time through advance appropriations. For the first time in the history of the Veteran Administration’s budget, this year, President Obama’s budget request includes health care funds for two years.

“We applaud President Obama for standing by his commitment to veterans’ health care needs. Veteran Administration hospitals, clinics and long term care facilities can finally count on getting the dollars they need for timely hiring, equipment purchases and construction. Funding reform, which was supported by the president when he was a Senator, will put an end to yearly shortfalls and supplemental funding bills,” said David Cox, AFGE Union Secretary Treasurer.

“AFGE is alo very pleased the administration has dedicated a substantial amount of resources towards the unique needs of women veterans, we well as, dedicating $800 million towards tackling homelessness among veterans. For our military has been strengthened by the contributions of female members of the armed services. We are especially pleased that the administration has recognized that the 21st Century Veterans Administration must be responsive to their needs. Likewise, in a nation as rich and grateful as ours, no veteran should ever be condemned to homelessness. This budget reflects those commitments and we commend the President for it,” added Mr. Cox.

According to the union, AFGE and its National Veterans Administration Council have been longtime advocates for mandatory funding of the Veterans Administration, an approach they say is widely supported by the veterans’ community. AFGE with the nine veteran’s groups comprising the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform endorsed advanced appropriations as an alternative funding approach that is achievable in the short term. “Yearly funding delays were driving up costs by requiring the Veterans Administratrion to turn more and more contract care from providers not specializing in veterans’ health care needs,” Mr. Cox said.

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