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Congress debates VA budget cuts

November 10, 1995
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Jed Duvall

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Officials of the Veterans Administration are worried that congressional Republicans are about to cut so much from the budget that veterans will suffer.

"Many of them will try to come to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and we're going to have to say 'Well, we can't take you because our budget is being cut,'" said Hershel Gober, Veteran Affairs deputy secretary.

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But congressional Republicans say they are cutting only waste, and veterans will not be hurt.

"No veteran's health care will be jeopardized under the Republican budget and they can feel secure about that," said Rep. Tim Hutchinson, R-Arkansas. (50K AIFF sound or 50K WAV sound)

Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia disagrees.

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"The Republican budget now before Congress would take 15 billion dollars from health care over the next seven years. That means about four million veterans will get turned away from medical care. Dozens of VA hospitals will close," he said. (163K AIFF sound or 163K WAV sound)

Republicans claim their opponents are merely indulging in scare tactics.

"It is difficult to imagine how they keep a straight face and attack a plan that is more generous than their own budget," said Hutchinson.

What Hutchinson means is the General Accounting Office has looked at the numbers trumpeted by both sides and said, "Under the President's proposal, total VA medical care funding for 1996 through 2000 would be $336 million less than the House proposal."

Both sides do agree on one statistic -- in 15 years there will be a million and a half veterans at least 85 years old.

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