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VA: Expansion sought in veterans spending

Available details of President Barack Obama’s proposed government spending for the 2010 budget year that begins on Oct. 1. A more extensive budget outline is expected in April. In most cases, the figures are for discretionary spending and do not include mandatory entitlement programs like Social Security. The percentage change is based on what Obama wants to spend next year compared with what he anticipates the government will spend in 2009 once Congress completes appropriations for this year.

Agency: Veterans Affairs

2010 proposal: $52.5 billion

Change from 2009 estimate: 10 percent increase

Highlights: Obama proposed a Veterans Affairs budget that takes a step toward expanding health care access to non-disabled veterans whose incomes exceed about $30,000 annually.

Those veterans didn’t qualify for VA health care under the Bush administration. By 2013, the administration said 500,000 of the qualifying “Priority 8” veterans would be eligible.

Obama’s budget also would provide extra funding for homeless veterans and those in rural areas. It would fund upgrades to the VA’s technology system to help eliminate the average six-month wait to have a disability claim processed, and to resources to implement the post-9/11 GI Bill.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs committee, called the proposed increases encouraging, but expressed concern.

“I believe that we need to move quicker to get our ’Priority 8’ veterans within the system, so that’s one area I’ll be looking at,” Murray said.

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