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Local veterans react to new funding from debt ceiling negotiations

Posted at 7:06 PM, May 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-29 19:06:22-04

A tentative deal is in the works to suspend the debt ceiling until January 2025. One of the terms in the deal is putting $121 billion toward veteran's medical care.

Some local veterans are happy to hear their benefits will continue to be covered and are expanding to those exposed to toxic substances, but they said it wouldn't be possible if it weren't for veterans groups.

Frank Roycraft is the incoming commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars 3308 in Tallahassee. He said the post is not only about offering support to other veterans, but also banning together to ensure that they get the benefits they deserve.

"Those folks in Washington understand numbers and being a member means there's another number for those Congressmen up there to answer to," said Roycraft.

The new legislation released on Saturday would raise the nation's $31.4 trillion borrowing limit for two years. Part of the deal, fully funding veterans health care and benefits through the VA.

Ken Swords served in the United States Marine Corps during the 1960s. During his time in Vietnam, he was wounded three times and is now 100% disabled, meaning all of his medical care is paid for.

Knowing how important his health care benefits are, Swords is now helping other veterans get the care they need.

"I can go to the VA and everything and there is no cost to me and so I've been able to help others achieve this goal which they deserved and they did deserve," said Swords.

Another part of the new deal, creating a new $20.3 billion fund for veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances or environmental hazards.

Debbie Mann served in the Army for 31 years and her barracks were right next to a burn pit in Afghanistan. While she is older, a lot of the people she served with were younger. Her concern is the delayed effects of burn pits to the younger veterans who served.

"I want them to be able to have the benefits," said Mann. "I want the things to be recognized that this was caused from the burn pits and they did develop this 20 years later, just like in Agent Orange, and they deserve their disabilities."

Although Swords believes increasing funding for veteran's medical programs are needed, he isn't getting his hopes up until the new deal is signed.

"Help our veterans get what they're supposed to get so right now school is out on that for me until I get a letter that comes to me that says this will be what your increase will be," said Swords.

The deal still needs to pass through Congress before June 5th, which is when the U.S. Treasury said it would run short of money to cover all of its obligations, including those veterans benefits.