Pa. Rep. Deluzio celebrates budget protections for veterans’ healthcare

‘We veterans also know and keep a watchful eye on those who utilize us as bargaining chips,’ veteran Craig Romanovich said

By: - June 13, 2023 1:13 pm

U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio, D-17th District, speaks during a news conference in Wilkinsburg, Pa., on Wednesday April 12, 2023 (Capital-Star photo by Kim Lyons).

PITTSBURGH —  U.S. Rep Chris Deluzio, is celebrating the protections he says he and fellow Democrats fought to retain for funding of the Department of Veterans Affairs and veterans’ healthcare.

“As our nation approached its debt limit, House Republicans attempted to use my fellow veterans as a bargaining chip to advance a pretty radical, right-wing agenda protecting tax cuts for billionaires and massive corporations while taking the economy to the brink,” Deluzio, D-17th District, said Monday on a conference call with reporters. 

Also on the call were retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, and Army veteran Craig Romanovich, who serves as chair of the Union Veterans Council of the Allegheny-Fayette County Labor Council, and is a constituent of Deluzio. 

“We veterans also know and keep a watchful eye on those who utilize us as bargaining chips,” Romanovich said. 

The western Pennsylvania-based 17th Congressional District has approximately 44,000 veterans, he added, who count on Deluzio to protect their benefits. 

U.S. Senate in turnaround backs aid for veterans exposed to burn pits

“[He] stood in opposition of the Republican-led bill that would have seen cuts to the VA budget. His fellow Democrats and President [Joe] Biden not only fought to defend the right to quality healthcare through the VA but to see an increase to the funds for that care.” 

Of particular concern to Deluzio, a Navy and Iraq War veteran who serves on the House’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, were attempts to underfund the Cost of War Toxic Exposure Fund. 

Established in 2022, the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics or PACT Act, was aimed at improving healthcare services and funding for veterans exposed to toxic substances while serving in the military. 

Republicans’ budget proposals, Deluzio said, would have “slashed” discretionary funds, had no protections for funding the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and would have underfunded the Cost of War Toxic Exposures Fund by some $15 billion in 2024, and provided no advanced funding for the fund for 2025. 

“That fund was established in the PACT act to pay for the care of veterans like me and so many others who were exposed to toxic burn pits in places like Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “If any of these attacks on veterans’ funding would have become law, it would have been disastrous.”

The final debt ceiling legislation allocated the full $20 billion in President Biden’s budget for the toxic exposures fund for 2024. It also exempts veterans from SNAP work requirements, and raises total VA spending to $320 billion for 2024, up from the current fiscal year’s $300 billion.

“This result was anything but a foregone conclusion; these House Republicans’ threats were anything but empty. Veterans care and funding were really at stake.”

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly