Some Illinois veterans groups want to know how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would spend the additional $4.4 million proposed in President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget.
The budget blueprint states the president wants “to improve patient access and timeliness of medical care” for the nine million veterans who use the system.
That’s good news for veterans like Lynn Lowder, CEO of 1 Veteran at a Time, an Aurora-based organization that promotes veteran entrepreneurship.
“Anything we can do to help the VA to do their job better is a good thing,” Lowder said. “But just because you are going to increase the budget by ‘X’ percent, doesn’t necessarily equate to a better form of healthcare.”
Lowder, a Vietnam War veteran and a retired lawyer, said he wants to know where the increased spending would go, and how it will be spent by the VA.
“It’s the quality of the healthcare, and the responsiveness of it, that makes an enormous difference to veterans,” Lowder said.
Lowder, 71, said getting access to care can be a challenge, and veterans often require help navigating the system.
It’s unclear how the VA will specifically use the added money if it is approved by Congress. A spokesman for the agency could not be reached for comment.
“I sincerely hope that a portion of the new funding is going to be designated to support programs for not just veterans but military families and the caregivers as well because they play an important part in the lives of the veterans, especially those who are recovering from injuries,” said Ken Barber, who is head of the Chicago-based nonprofit Illinois Joining Forces. The group works to connect veterans with services, including healthcare.
Barber, a Navy veteran, said he would welcome the funding boost because “veterans deserve the best care and support that this country can provide.”
“I think this funding will result in more resources being available to veterans within their community. That means resources like Illinois Joining Forces are more important that ever,” Barber said. “Illinois Joining Forces ensures that veterans can identify the resources that are available to meet their needs within their particular communities and helping them navigate the pool of all the resource providers out there. That’s going to be just as important as having funding behind those resources.”
Illinois is home to more than 700,000 veterans, according to the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs.
Michael Puente is WBEZ’s Northwest Indiana Studio Reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @MikePuenteNews.