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Begich at White House for Signing of Historic VA Legislation

Bill will allow more predictable, timely funding for Veterans care

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich joined President Obama and several of his Congressional colleagues for a bill signing Oct. 22 at the White House of The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009. Begich was a co-sponsor of the legislation which requires that veterans' health care be funded on year-in advance of the regular appropriations process.

Currently the Veterans Administration (VA) is funded year-by-year which has resulted in late funding for the VA in 20 of the past 23 years, making it difficult for the agency to provide consistent and reliable services for veterans.

"I was honored to be at the bill signing for this historic piece of legislation," Begich said. "This was one of the first bills I co-sponsored when I got into the Senate and it should go a long way in giving the VA the capacity to adequately plan and timely deliver the services our nation's veterans so richly deserve."

The Act, which was unanimously passed by the Senate last week, was originally introduced in the 110th Congress by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and was re-introduced in the 111th Congress with Sen. Begich and many other co-sponsors.

In addition to the early funding for the VA, it enhances transparency by requiring public reports and audits on VA's funding forecasting. Advance funding of the VA has been a priority of veterans groups for over two decades.

Alaska has over 70,000 veterans, many living in rural areas where getting timely health care can be even more difficult.

"Many Alaska veterans, by virtue of where they live, face additional challenges to accessing quality health care. This advance funding will help the VA plan programs, hire doctors, and be overall better able to stay focused on serving those who have served our country," Begich said.

Begich is a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Senate Armed Services Committees.

Attached is a link to the video of a news conference from February when the legislation was introduced. Sen. Begich comments come during minute four.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kh471jZLc0&feature=channel

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