House, Senate agree to give $1.5 billion to VA healthcare

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Both the House and the Senate last week overwhelmingly passed a bill to give $1.5 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs to compensate for its $1.5 billion healthcare shortfall.

The Senate passed the measure Friday by 99-1, while the House OK'd it by a vote of 410-10. The legislation, which adds $1.5 billion to the Interior Appropriations bill, now goes to President Bush for approval.

The addition of $1.5 billion brings the total for VA's health care budget for 2005 to over $28 billion. Under the legislation adopted last week, any of the $1.5 billion not used during the 2005 budget year, which ends September 30, will be carried over into 2006. The budget deficit for healthcare could reach $1 billion in FY 2005 and $2.6 billion in FY 2006, the VA said.