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Arizona Gov. Ducey removes $3.6 million from Dept. of Veterans Services in budget veto

AZ Vets Affairs PHX.jpg
VA Outpatient Clinic in Phoenix

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey exercised his first-ever line-item veto of a state budget Wednesday as he found an item he didn't like.
The governor use his constitutional power to remove $3.6 million from the Department of Veterans Services. Those dollars were specifically earmarked for hyperbaric oxygen therapy for veterans, a provision put in the budget by Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff.
She told colleagues during hearings that the measure was brought to her by constituents.
The therapy involves breathing 100 percent oxygen while in a hypberbaric chamber, where the air pressure inside is raised to a level higher than normal atmospheric pressure. That is supposed to help the lungs collect more oxygen.
"It has been found to be efficacious, helpful in curing post-traumatic stress syndrome,'' said Rogers who is a veteran. But the governor, for his part, was unconvinced.
"Arizona has created a strong, welcoming environment for our veterans,'' he said in his veto message, the first in the eight budgets he has approved. And he said there has been "no shortage of policies'' to help them, including spending measures.
"This appropriation however has little support from the public and veteran community,'' Ducey wrote.
Rogers told Capitol Media Services she was surprised.
"Wow, that's judge unimaginable,'' she said.
"Hyperbaric treatment has such a high success rate in curing veterans' PTSD,'' Rogers said. "The veteran community and I are absolutely incredulous.''
Lawmakers actually established a fund to pay for the therapy several years ago, with permission to take private donations, grants and other monies. This would have been the first state dollars since an initial appropriation of $25,000 in 2018.
Rogers said the program could treat 500 veterans each with 40 "dives,'' meaning time under pressure.
Rep. Walt Blackman, R-Snowflake, who also is a veteran, was skeptical not so much of the treatment but the fact that this would have been one-time dollars. He said there is no answer to what happens when the cash runs out.
On Twitter: @azcapmedia