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Crowley slams co-pay hike hitting 1,800 boro veterans

"Americans who serve in the military are promised a lifetime of care, but now they're being turned away," U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said on the steps of Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. "While this president talks about supporting the troops, this budget shows a tremendous lack of respect."While the proposed 2006 federal budget provides $70.8 billion for veterans affairs - a 2.7 percent increase from 2005 - the new fees would close a $2.1 billion health-care funding shortfall. The increases target so-called "priority 7" and "priority 8" veterans who earn more than $25,000 a year and suffer from injuries that are not service-related.Crowley said the new fees would make federal health care too expensive for about 90,000 New York residents, including around 1,800 in Queens. The federal Department of Veterans Affairs provides care for an estimated 250,000 residents across the state. "Queens has the largest number of veterans among any other borough in the city," Marshall said. Arno Heller, 84, a World War II veteran from Rego Park whose medication is covered by the Veterans Administration, said his co-payments run between $45-$60 a month. Bush's budget plans would jack those monthly costs to more than $100, he said."Which is more than I think I can afford," Heller said. "It would be a hardship for me to pay this kind of money." Middle Village resident John Rowan, president of the New York State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America, said the budget cuts fit into a trend of Bush showing disrespect toward veterans. He noted that under the president's 2003 budget, the VA stopped accepting "new priority 8" veterans."They want to make veterans (live) like welfare recipients," Rowan said.Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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