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Begich Comments on Appropriations Spending Bill

Pleased with Restoration of Disabled Vet Pensions but Determined to Restore Pensions for All Veterans

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, issued a statement following the introduction of a bipartisan omnibus spending bill that will restore cost of living (COLA) payments to disabled veterans pensions, fund government agencies through the end of Fiscal Year 2014 and prevent a potential government shutdown on Saturday, and includes funding for Alaska Native tribal contract support and staffing packages.

“I’m also pleased that this bill fixes the unnecessary COLA cuts for disabled veterans retirement pay but I remain disappointed that the cut still applies to military retirees.  That is why today I introduced an amendment to the Unemployment Extension bill to repeal the cut for all retirees. We should not be making cuts on the backs of our military men and women.

“While I continue to review this bill, I’m pleased the omnibus package contains funding for contract support costs and staffing packages. While I still think it is not enough and have fought hard – including pressing the President and his administration to pay the costs in full – for the federal government to hold up its end of the deal and honor these long overdue contracts with tribes. Without these critical resources, our tribal health contractors in Alaska are unable to operate hospitals and clinics, welfare programs, and police departments as effectively as they should.  In addition to contract support costs, the omnibus bill includes $66.2 million for IHS staffing package funds that are critical for six facilities built across the state with the expectation that the federal government would uphold its end of the contract by paying staffing costs. It’s high time they receive what they are owed."

Sen. Begich represents 229 federally recognized tribes and has been one of the most outspoken and diligent leaders in Congress on tribal heath issues, including his work on contract support costs. His work in the Senate includes playing an instrumental role in securing an additional $66.2 million in funding for Indian Health Service (IHS) Joint Venture staffing package funds for facilities across Alaska.

Sen. Begich has not shied away from calling out the Obama Administration after it proposed to set individual caps to contract support costs on a per tribe basis to limit the amount of funds tribes and tribal heath care providers would receive.  Sen. Begich has led multiple bi-partisan efforts in the Senate to press the Administration, President, and the Appropriations Committee on the significance of this issue.

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