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Statement on Signing the Veterans Health Care Expansion Act of 1973.

August 02, 1973

I AM PLEASED today to sign S. 59, the "Veterans Health Care Expansion Act of 1973," a bill which will substantially expand the health benefits available to our Nation's veterans and their families.

Lest year the Congress passed a different veterans health care bill which I vetoed, because it would have severely limited our ability to provide quality medical care to our veterans and would have unnecessarily added hundreds of millions of dollars to the Federal budget.

As a result of a constructive compromise worked out between members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees and my representatives, S. 59 represents a major improvement over the bill I vetoed last year. The most objectionable features of the previous bill have been removed. No longer are arbitrary and wasteful floors placed upon staffing and patient loads in VA hospitals. No longer is VA hospitalization required for new classes of beneficiaries who can and should be more appropriately cared for outside VA hospitals.

S. 59 addresses the basic objectives sought by the Congress and the Administration-to provide the best medical care possible for veterans--and accomplishes this goal in a much more effective way than the bill I disapproved. Most notably, this bill:

--provides a more flexible approach to veterans medical care by broadening the use of outpatient care;

--permits veterans with service connected disabilities requiring nursing home care to get such care directly, without having to enter a VA hospital;

--holds down costs with the result that this bill will require 41 percent less in Federal outlays over the next 5 years than the vetoed bill.

The long record of outstanding service provided by our VA hospitals is an impressive one. This year more than one million patients will be cared for in VA hospitals, the highest number in history. We intend to maintain the high standards which have always characterized such care.

Early in my first term, I made a public commitment to provide "quality medical care to every eligible veteran." The record shows that we are making genuine progress toward that goal. My requests for veterans medical appropriations during the present year total $2.7 billion, more than $1 billion above the 1969 figure of $1.5 billion. The total number of doctors in the VA system has risen from 5,085 in 1968 to 5,374 in 1973, while the total number of medical staff personnel has increased from approximately 130,000 in 1970 to some 153,000 today.

To continue this progress, I have asked the Veterans Administrator to take immediate steps to carry out the provisions of S. 59, making necessary arrangements with the Secretary of Defense concerning dependents care and seeing to it that balanced care is available to veterans in all VA regions.

Enactment of S. 59 demonstrates that it is possible to develop sound legislation, mutually agreeable to both the Congressional and executive branches, without violating our goals for a tight Federal budget. I hope that the constructive results represented by this bill will be repeated with regard to other domestic legislation now pending.

Note: As enacted, S. 59 is Public Law 93-82 (87 Stat. 179).

Richard Nixon, Statement on Signing the Veterans Health Care Expansion Act of 1973. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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