House approves veterans’ healthcare, disability bill
On Thursday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved legislation to increase healthcare spending for veterans and provide more money to compensate the record numbers of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans claiming service-related disabilities as they return home. The 407-12 vote reflected the traditional bipartisan support Congress holds for veterans and efforts by Republicans to exempt veterans’ programs from cuts felt by other domestic programs.
Nearly half of the $148 billion legislation is for veterans’ pensions and disability payments, which lawmakers have little control over. The bill includes a 20 percent, $10.5 billion increase for such payments. The measure also increases spending for Veterans Administration medical services in 2014 by $2.3 billion, a 5 percent increase that came as the VA revealed in the early part of this year that it overestimated medical care costs by $3 billion for this year and $2 billion for next. Earlier this week, The Associated Press reported that 45 percent of the 1.6 million veterans from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking compensation for injuries they say are service related. Roughly 1.2 million veterans plan to file for disability claims next year, as well as a backlog of almost 1 million applicants.