Honor Veterans with a Better Budget
Congress narrowly passed a budget last week that calls for the federal government to spend in excess of 2 trillion dollars in 2004, which is more than double what the federal government spent in 1990. Yet while Congress finds hundreds of billions to fund every conceivable unconstitutional program and special-interest pork project, it fails to provide adequately for our nationís veterans. In fact, the budget passed by the House calls for cuts of $15.1 billion from veterans programs over the next ten years. These cuts will affect programs that provide education benefits, compensation for veterans with service-related disabilities, and pensions for disabled veterans.
We should understand that veterans programs, unlike so many federal programs, are constitutional. The Constitution specifically provides for Congress to fund armed forces and provide national defense. Congress and the nation accordingly have a constitutional obligation to keep the promises made to those who provide that defense. This is why I support increased funding for veterans, while opposing the bloated spending bills that fund corporate and social welfare, pork favoritism, and special interests at the expense of those veterans.
Unfortunately, the trust that members of our armed forces put in our government has been breached time and time again, and last weekís budget vote represents anther blow to veterans. Even as we send hundreds of thousands of soldiers into Iraq, Congress canít get its priorities straight.
We should remember that Gulf War I and II will swell the ranks of our combat veterans, many of whom will need medical care as they grow older. Congress should immediately end the silence and formally address Gulf War Syndrome, which has had a devastating impact on veterans who served in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. As a medical doctor, I believe the syndrome is very real, and likely represents several different maladies caused by exposure to conditions specific to the Gulf region at the time. Congress and the Veterans Administration should stop insulting our Gulf War veterans and recognize that the syndrome is a serious illness that needs treatment. We can only hope and pray that our soldiers in Iraq today do not suffer from similar illnesses in the future. Congress must, however, ensure adequate funding for the medical care that todayís soldiers will someday need.
Having served in the U.S. Air Force for five years, I feel an obligation to our veterans and current armed forces. Congress wastes so much money that only a small portion of that waste could make a huge difference in the lives of our veterans. Depending on what the Senate does, Congress may have a chance to revisit the 2004 budget and find the resolve to fully fund needed veterans programs.