Baker Urges Expansion of Veterans’ Services

HARRISBURG –Feb. 25, 2013–Sen. Lisa Baker sought assurances that federal sequestration will not harm national security or veterans in the state’s six homes as she led off the Senate’s budget hearing for the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA).

As the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, she also sought assurances from Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, Pennsylvania’s Adjutant General, that newly created revenue sources for Pennsylvania veterans will “supplement and not supplant” state funding.

Of particular interest to Baker is the Veterans Trust Fund, created by legislation which she authored last year to expand services to veterans and their families for such immediate needs as emergency housing, heat, funeral expenses, doctors’ visits, prescription drugs, handicapped-accessible home renovations, and emergency mortgage assistance.

Noting that some budgetary line-items had declined in the Governor’s budget proposal for this fiscal year, Baker emphasized that the revenues from “Honoring our Veterans” license plates and voluntary check-offs on vehicle registration applications were designed to expand veterans’ benefits, not enable the state to reduce its obligation.

She also is tracking the waiting lists and staffing levels at the state’s six veterans’ homes, along with moves to privatize physical therapy, occupational therapy, pharmaceutical, nursing and physician services. She emphasized that saving dollars must not trump patient care.

Noting the difficulty of health care access for rural veterans, Baker advocated the placement of a new veterans home in the Lehigh Valley, and the expansion of community-based care in Wayne County and vicinity.

As members of the military return each day from Iraq and Afghanistan, she and fellow members of the Appropriations Committee also asked about the DMVA’s efforts to combat suicide, joblessness, homelessness, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Contact: Jennifer Wilson
(570) 675-3931