Senate votes $1.5B in extra funds for VA

Facing a major budget shortfall, the Senate approved an extra $1.5 billion for the Veteran's Affairs administration yesterday. The added money will largely go to fund medical centers operated by the agency. Over the past two years, the VA has been hard hit by the increased costs of providing healthcare to veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After first suggesting that they didn't need the money, the Bush Administration asked for it in the face of strong pressure from Republicans. The timing was also a factor -- coming just before the President's speech on Iraq, more money may be needed.

Now it may not be enough. On Tuesday, the White House said up to $2.5 billion may be necessary to cover the shortfall. The VA is now providing care to about 100,000 veterans of the two conflicts. "The bottom line is there is a surge in demand in VA (health) services across the board," said VA secretary James Nicholson.

- see this story from the Los Angeles Times