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STAGGERS CHAIRS HEARING ON HOMELESS VETERANS AND HEALTH CARE; WV VETERANS LIVING IN 'TENTS AND ROOT CELLARS'

 STAGGERS CHAIRS HEARING ON HOMELESS VETERANS AND HEALTH CARE;
 WV VETERANS LIVING IN 'TENTS AND ROOT CELLARS'
 PITTSBURGH, April 13 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Rep. Harley Staggers (D-W.Va.) said that the health care and housing needs of West Virginia and Pennsylvania veterans are not being met.
 Staggers, who chaired a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing in Pittsburgh this weekend, said that he's concerned with the fact that far too many area veterans have fallen through the holes in the VA safety net.
 "The testimony at the hearing was disturbing," said Staggers. "It's estimated that several thousand West Virginia veterans, who are not even counted among the homeless, are living in makeshift housing. Those who served this nation deserve better than a tent or a root cellar without running water and electricity."
 West Virginia Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Commander Scottie King told the Staggers' hearing that the VA needs to redefine its definition of a homeless veteran.
 John Morrow, who heads up the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) in West Virginia, told Staggers' Veterans Subcommittee that his group has been in contact with numerous veterans "living in root cellars and living in tents in the hills of West Virginia."
 Staggers said that the VA needs to look hard at expanding services for veterans, including medical care.
 "As long as veterans remain a low priority within the federal budget, the needs of veterans will remain unmet," said Staggers. "The American people need to know, and veterans have a right to know, that the Administration is considering cuts that would be equivalent to closing 10 to 20 VA hospitals."
 Staggers, who recently focused national attention on potential hospital closings, was told by a top VA official at the hearing that cuts of up to $900 million, which are being considered by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) could be "devastating."
 "Secretary Derwinski (VA chief) was sure that the friends of veterans in Congress, including you (Staggers), would not allow these cuts to be made," testified Erwin Pernick, Counselor to VA Secretary Ed Derwinski.
 Staggers said that veterans programs have been "shortchanged" compared to other federal programs, noting that funding for NASA rose 87.5 percent while funding for VA programs increased 17.6 percent between Fiscal Years 1986 and 1991.
 -0- 4/13/92
 /CONTACT: Jim Watkins of Harley O. Staggers' Office, 202-225-4331/ CO: ST: West Virginia IN: SU:


MP-MK -- PG008 -- 7844 04/13/92 14:16 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Apr 13, 1992
Words:407
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