The House Veterans Affairs Committee last week moved to restore nearly 2,900 of the 3,680 medical-care and research job cuts called for in the Clinton administration's proposed 1995 budget for the Veterans Affairs Department.
The panel also approved the addition of more than $700 million in funding for VA medical care, research and construction.
The additions called for by the VA committee would bring the 1995 VA medical budget to $16.5 billion, an increase of $890 million over 1994 levels. The administration's budget envisioned a more modest increase of $500 million for medical care. The VA operates 171 hospitals and more than 300 clinics.
The Clinton budget calls for total VA spending of $37.8 billion, an increase of $779 million over 1994 outlays. The administration proposed trimming a total of 5,300 people from the department's work force of more than 200,000.
Those increases still put VA spending well below the level called for by two dozen veterans and provider organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Those groups are scheduled to release their own budget this week that calls for nearly $19.7 billion in medical-care spending. The "independent budget" also will say that to maintain services at the level they were in 1988, the VA would need medical funding of nearly $18.5 billion.
The House committee also voted to add $52 million for VA research activities, bringing total research funding to $262 million. The construction budget would be increased by $262 million to $576 million. Those additions restore the cuts called for in the Clinton budget, which was released last month.
"The committee is moving in the right direction, considering the Clinton administration was moving in the wrong direction," said John Hanson, director of national veteran affairs at the American Legion.
Veterans groups were particularly peeved by the personnel cuts in the Clinton budget, which they said would make it impossible for the VA to compete under national healthcare reform.
The VA committee's recommendations now move to the House Budget Committee which, at press time last week, was beginning work on the plan.