Open Letter Signed by Twenty-one Medal of Honor Recipients
Dear fellow Veterans:
We have listened to Senator Kerry falsely attack President Bush for months over funding for veterans, and it's time to set the record straight.* The truth is President Bush has led the way on improving veterans' benefits, supporting our troops and restoring honor and dignity to the White House.
Since 2001, President Bush has increased veterans funding by over $20 billion, and funding for veterans' health care has increased by 40 percent since he took office.* Funding for veterans has gone up twice as fast under President Bush as it did under President Clinton, and those who accuse the President of cutting funding are simply not being honest with veterans.
Meanwhile, John Kerry voted against a $1.3 billion increase in veterans health care, skipped votes on concurrent receipt and voted against funding for our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.* And while he talks a good game, Kerry's record shows he is out of the mainstream.* The American Flag symbolizes our ideals, our history and our values.* President Bush shares this belief and supports a Constitutional Amendment banning desecration of the Flag.* John Kerry believes this is "an attack on free speech."
We are disturbed that John Kerry would try to scare veterans with his false accusations, and we are disappointed in his lack of support for today's troops.* Please join us in setting the record straight and showing your support for President Bush -- a leader who has proven his support for those who have served, backs our troops defending our nation and shares our values.
*The signatures on this letter of Medal of Honor recipients does not denote the support or endorsement of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society
THE FACTS ON VETERANS
President Bush's Record:
Annenberg Public Policy Center: Kerry's Claims About Veterans Health Cuts Are Not True.* The University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Center stated in a FactCheck, "[F]unding for veterans is going up twice as fast under Bush as it did under Clinton. And the number of veterans getting health benefits is going up 25% under Bush's budgets. That's hardly a cut.* FactCheck.org twice contacted the Kerry campaign asking how he justified his claim that the VA budget is being cut, but we've received no response." (FactCheck.org Website, www.factcheck.org/article.aspx?docid=144
, Accessed 2/18/04)
Increased VA Funding:* The President's FY 2005 budget proposes to increase funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs to $68 billion from the 2001 level of $48 billion.* The President's budget requests $29.5 billion for VA's medical care for next year, more that 40 percent above the 2001 level.* The past four straight VA budget increases have provided more than a 40 percent increase in VA health care alone since 2001-- enabling a million more patients to receive treatment.*
Increased Health Care Service to Veterans:* In the past four years, President Bush's budgets have allowed the VA to enroll 2.5 million more veterans for health care services, increase outpatient visits from 44 million to 54 million, increase the number of prescriptions filled from 86 million to 108 million and open 194 new community-based clinics available for veterans.* The number of veterans registered for health benefits increased 18 percent under President Bush and will increase by almost 26 percent by October 2004. ("Funding For Veterans Up 27%, But Democrats Call It A Cut," FactCheck.org Website, www.factcheck.org
, Accessed 2/18/04)
Concurrent Receipt Of Benefits:* President Bush has twice signed legislation effectively providing "concurrent receipt" of both military retired pay and VA disability compensation for combat-injured and highly-disabled veterans, reversing a century old law preventing concurrent receipt.*
Cutting The Disability Claims Backlog. President Bush promised to reduce the disability claims backlog, and at his request, Congress has provided VA with the resources it needs to reduce claims.* Claims backlogs have dropped from a high of 432,000 and are approaching the goal of 250,000 while the volume of claims decisions per month has increased from 40,000 to 68,000.* The average length of time to process a veteran's compensation claim has dropped from approximately 230 days to 160 days and the VA expects to meet its goal of 100 days this year.
Help For Homeless Veterans:* As a result of the President's 2003 budget, community grants were expanded to all 50 States and Washington, D.C. for the first time in history, ensuring that homeless veterans have access to housing, health care and shelter.
Additional Prescription Drug Coverage:* Last year, President Bush took the unprecedented step of allowing veterans waiting for a medical appointment who already have a prescription from their private physician, to have those prescriptions filled by the VA.* This is saving veterans hundreds of dollars in drug costs.
VA Expansion:* The President is seeking to improve outpatient veteran's health care services through the CARES improvements, which will result in the construction of two new medical centers in Orlando, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada; over 100 major construction projects to revitalize and modernize VA medical centers in 37 states; creation of 156 new community-based outpatient clinics; potential creation of four new - and expansion of five existing - spinal cord injury centers; and opening up two new blind rehabilitation centers.
John Kerry's Record:
Kerry Voted Against Last Year's Supplemental Defense Funding, Which Included An Extra $1.3 Billion For Veteran Health Care.* Kerry voted against the fiscal 2004 supplemental package of $86.5 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Senate version included an additional $1.3 billion for veterans' medical care.*
Kerry Skipped Vote That Funded VA With $28.6 Billion For Fiscal 2004, Including $1 Billion To Expedite Processing Of VA Benefits Claims.* Kerry skipped the vote on Fiscal 2004 Omnibus Appropriations, which included $28.6 billion for the VA. The amount was an increase of $2.9 billion over the previous year, and included $1 billion to "expedite claims processing at the Veterans Benefits Administration." (U.S. House Committee On Appropriations, "House Passes FY04 Consolidated Appropriations," Press Release, http://appropriations.house.gov/inde...Release_id=342
Kerry Voted Against the McCain Amendment To Require Equal Access To Health Care For All Veterans. Kerry was one of only 18 Senators to vote against the measure. (H.R. 3666, CQ Vote #268: Adopted 79-18: R 50-0; D 29-18, 9/4/96, Kerry Voted Nay)
Kerry Voted Against Last Year's Supplemental Defense Funding, Which Included $1.3 Billion For Veteran Health Care. (S. 1689, CQ Vote #400: Passed 87-12: R 50-0; D 37-11; I 0-1, 10/17/03, Kerry Voted Nay)
In 2001, Kerry Voted Against Amendment That Would Have Increased Funding For Veterans' Medical Care By $650 Million.* (H.R. 2620, CQ Vote #263: Motion Rejected 25-75: R 8-41; D 16-34; I 1-0, 8/1/01, Kerry Voted Nay)
In 1999, Kerry Voted To Kill Amendment That Would Have Reallocated $210 Million For Veterans' Medical Benefits And $10 Million For Construction Of Veterans' Extended Care Facilities.* (H.R. 2684, CQ Vote #286: Motion Agreed To 61-38: R 16-37; D 45-0; I 0-1, 9/22/99, Kerry Voted Yea)
Kerry Skipped Vote That Funded VA With $28.6 Billion For Fiscal 2004. (H.R. 2673, CQ Vote #3: Adopted 65-28: R 44-4; D 21-23; I 0-1, 1/22/04, Kerry Did Not Vote; U.S. House Committee On Appropriations, "House Passes FY04 Consolidated Appropriations," Press Release, http://appropriations.house.gov/inde...Release_id=342
Kerry Missed Two Votes In 2003 That Extended Military Health Coverage To National Guard, Reservists And Their Families If Called To Active Duty.* (H.R.1588, CQ Vote #447: Adopted 95-3: R 51-0; D 44-2; I 0-1, 11/12/03, Kerry Did Not Vote; S.1050, CQ Vote #185: Adopted 85-10: R 39-10; D 45-0; I 1-0, 5/20/03, Kerry Did Not Vote)