The Independent Budget for Fiscal Year 2014
As The Independent Budget is presented, American servicemen and –women continue
to be placed in harm’s way in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hostile areas around
the world. Since fighting began in Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in March
2003, more than 3,500 service members have made the ultimate sacrifice and more
than 28,000 have been wounded. These brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines
are only the latest in a long line of men and women who have unhesitatingly come
forward in time of war to confront those who seek to unalterably change the world
we know and the liberty we cherish.
It is for these men and women and the millions who came before them that we set
out each year to assess the health of the one federal department whose sole task
it is to care for them and their families.
The Independent Budget is based on a systematic methodology that takes into account
changes in the size and age of the veteran population, cost-of-living adjustments,
federal employee staffing, wages, medical care inflation, construction needs, the
aging health-care infrastructure, trends in health-care utilization, benefit needs,
efficient and effective means of benefits delivery, and estimates of the number
of veterans and their spouses who will be laid to rest in our nation’s cemeteries.
The President has stated that the war on terrorism is likely to be long, with dangers
from unexpected directions and enemies who are creative and flexible in planning
and executing attacks on our citizens and on our friends.
With this reality ever present in our minds, we must do everything we can to ensure
that the Department of Veterans Affairs has all the tools it needs to meet the challenges
of today and the problems of tomorrow. Our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands,
and wives who serve in the darkest corners of the world, keeping the forces of anarchy,
hatred, and intolerance at bay, need to know that they will come home to a people
who not only cherish their service, but also honor them with the best medical care
to make them whole, the best vocational rehabilitation to help them overcome the
employment challenges created by injury, and the best claims processing system to
deliver education, compensation, and survivors’ benefits in a minimum amount of
time to those most harmed by their service to our nation.
We are proud that The Independent Budget has gained the respect that it has over
its 23-year history. The coauthors of this important document—AMVETS, Disabled American
Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the
United States—work hard each year to ensure that The Independent Budget is the voice
of responsible advocacy and that our recommendations are based on facts, rigorous
analysis, and sound reasoning.
We hope that each reader approaches The Independent Budget with an open mind and
a clear understanding that America’s veterans should not be treated as the refuse
of war, but rather as the proud warriors they are.