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 Home > News & Policies > November 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 11, 2004

Fact Sheet: Honoring the Courage of America's Veterans

Today's Presidential Action

  • Today, President Bush commemorated Veterans Day with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the courage of America's Armed Forces.
  • The President is committed to honoring our Nation's veterans, and has proposed unprecedented levels of funding for veterans. His Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) represents an increase in overall funding for our Nation's veterans of almost $20 billion -- or 40 percent -- since FY 2001. It includes a 41 percent funding increase in veterans' medical care spending since FY 2001. President Bush's VA medical care budget increases enable the VA to meet its core medical mission -- to serve our highest- priority veterans, including low-income veterans, those with service-related disabilities, and those who need the VA's specialized services.
  • Our Nation's commitments are being kept by our military, and President Bush has a strong record of supporting America's men and women in uniform and their families. Since 2001, the President has provided four consecutive pay raises for the military, improved military housing for families living on base, and reduced to zero the average housing expenses for military families living off base. In 2003, President Bush requested $87 billion in supplemental funding from Congress to help ensure that the troops fighting the War on Terror have the resources to accomplish their mission, including the newest body armor and vital equipment, hazard pay, and health care. The President has also increased monthly education benefits for reservists and Guard members who have been mobilized to fight the War on Terror, and permanently extended the availability of health care benefits for reservists and their families immediately before and after deployment.

Honoring America's Veterans

President Bush honors America's veterans and their families who have sacrificed for our Nation. Under President Bush's leadership, the VA has dramatically improved health care services and the disability claims process, and is reducing the claims backlog and waiting times to receive medical treatment.

  • Improving Access to Health Care for Veterans
    • Increased Health Care Service to Veterans: Since 2001, President Bush's budget requests have allowed the VA to enroll 2.5 million more veterans in health care services, increase outpatient visits from 44 million to 54 million, and increase the number of prescriptions filled from 98 million in 2001 to 116 million as of August 2004. Under the President's leadership, 194 new community-based clinics have been opened since 2001 and are now available for veterans.
    • CARES (Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services): President Bush is seeking to modernize VA facilities and provide more care to more veterans where they need it the most. He has committed $1.5 billion in the FY 2004 and FY 2005 budgets (and additional funding will be requested in the future) to increase outpatient health care services for veterans, build new hospitals, and replace outdated, pre-World War II facilities. The VA is working to better distribute its network of clinics and hospitals, so that the vast majority of veterans will be within 30 miles of a VA community-based outpatient clinic or similar facility.
    • Expanded Access to Long-Term Care in the Most Non-Intrusive Settings: President Bush's FY 2005 budget request continues to expand long-term care for veterans through VA facilities, private and state facilities, and non-institutional care programs that allow veterans to live and be cared for near or in the comfort and familiar settings of their homes surrounded by their families.
  • More Responsive to Veterans
    • Eliminating the Wait List for Medical Care: This year, the list of veterans waiting more than six months for an appointment for basic medical care -- which peaked at 300,000 -- has been essentially eliminated.
    • Cutting the Disability Claims Backlog: The President promised to reduce the disability claims backlog, and, at his request, Congress has provided the VA with the resources it needs to reduce claims. Claims backlogs have dropped from a high of 432,000 and are moving toward a VA goal of 250,000. The volume of claims decisions per month has increased from 40,000 to more than 70,000. The average length of time to process a veteran's compensation claim has dropped from approximately 230 days to 160 days.
    • Giving Priority to Service-Connected Needs: Treating veterans with military disabilities, lower incomes, and special needs has always been the VA's core medical care mission and its highest priority. Under President Bush's leadership, the VA has established a new scheduling system to ensure that veterans seeking care for a service-connected condition are first in line. No veteran disabled in the service of our Nation will ever be turned away.
    • Providing Concurrent Receipt of Benefits: The President twice signed legislation providing "concurrent receipt" of both military retired pay and VA disability compensation for those military retirees most deserving -- combat-injured and highly-disabled veterans -- finally reversing a century-old law preventing concurrent receipt of benefits.
  • Serving America's Veterans and Caring for Families of Veterans
    • Seamless Transition of Benefits for America's Newest Veterans: Under President Bush's leadership, the VA is reaching out to 136 military bases to provide America's newest veterans with the services they have earned and to bring about a seamless transition for new veterans from military to civilian status. To date, more than 32,000 veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq have been provided VA care.
    • Caring for Families of Veterans: The VA makes pensions based on need available to surviving spouses and unmarried children of deceased veterans with wartime experience. President Bush signed the Veterans Benefits Act authorizing new and expanded benefits for disabled veterans, surviving spouses, and children. To comfort families and honor veterans with a hallowed, final resting place, the President signed the National Cemetery Expansion Act of 2003 into law, authorizing the future development of six new national cemeteries across the country.
    • Help for Homeless Veterans: President Bush's 2003 budget expanded community grants to all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the first time in history, ensuring that homeless veterans most in need have access to permanent housing, health care, and other support services.