Thursday, September 16 2021

The Department of Veterans Affairs, which has already requested a 10% increase in its 2022 fiscal budget, would receive this and an additional $ 170 million as part of the first draft of a fundraising bill released Thursday by House Appropriations. Committee.

Under the proposal, the VA would receive nearly $ 270 billion, including $ 113.1 billion in discretionary spending and $ 113.1 billion in advance funding for veterans medical care for fiscal year 2023.

Much of the increase of $ 170 million would go to health services, with $ 73 million added to the request of $ 778.5 million for women’s health and $ 1 million in addition to the request for $ 13.2 billion for mental health services.

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The bill would also fully fund VA construction projects, assistance programs for around 37,200 homeless veterans, and rural health initiatives – all budget items that VA secretary Denis McDonough said Wednesday are important to ensuring the safety and health of 9.6 million registered veterans.

“This proposed budget allows us to provide high quality health care and benefits to our veterans, and it does so in large part by enabling the work of great people,” McDonough told members of an oversight committee. of the Senate.

In the past year, the VA has received more than $ 36 billion for COVID-19 relief and recovery, and it could receive up to $ 18 billion in the U.S. infrastructure jobs plan Virginia Health Care Plan and $ 260 million in the United States Family Plan for Veterans Who Are Parents.

Critics have started to question the growth of the VA budget over the past two decades, which has grown from $ 47 billion in 2000 to $ 240 billion this year. Two wars have produced the most veterans since the Vietnam era, and the department faces an infrastructure crisis with a $ 60 billion backlog in maintenance and construction needs.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., The senior member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and others wrote to the House Budget Committee earlier this month, noting their concerns about the VA budget.

“The administration’s request raises the question: when does VA become sufficiently funded? Lawmakers wrote. “We believe that some level of continuous annual increases, above general inflation, would be warranted as long as they are supported by demand and shown to be necessary to continue this trend of improvement.”

The new proposal would boost Virginia’s women’s health budget by nearly 18% from fiscal 2021. The department currently provides benefits and health care to 561,000 veterinarians. Women are the fastest growing demographic in the veteran population, which is expected to reach 18% of the group by 2040. Just two decades ago, women made up just 4% of all veterans. Veterans.

To meet this growing demand, the VA has sought to expand gender-specific care and reorganize facilities to accommodate women’s clinics. Earlier this year, then-President Donald Trump signed the Deborah Sampson Act, which required every VA healthcare facility to have a primary care provider for women’s health.

The proposal also aims to expand a VA program to provide wellness services and medical care to veterinarians, known as ‘comprehensive health’. The bill would provide $ 84 million for these services, adding $ 10 million above President Joe Biden’s budget request to expand a program that currently serves about 7.4% of VA patients.

The bill would also add an additional $ 20 million to funding medical and prosthetic research.

Among the programs that would see budget cuts, however, is the VA’s new electronic health records system, currently on a “strategic hiatus” as the department reviews its difficult deployment last year in the Pacific Northwest. and plans to move forward.

According to the bill, $ 2.6 billion is spent on the continued implementation of the new digital medical records system, which is 10 million more than what it received this year but 26 million less than the VA request.

McDonough said Wednesday that he believed the system was “fundamentally sound,” but the VA needed to invest more in training on the system and in supporting those who use it.

A report on the review of the system will be released next week, he added.

In addition to VA funding, the Military Construction Appropriations Bill, Veterans Affairs and other related organizations include:

  • $ 228 million for Arlington National Cemetery, including full funding for the site’s southern expansion project to add an additional 80,000 burial sites
  • $ 88.1 million for the American Battle Monuments Commission, $ 3.3 million over the President’s budget request, to support ongoing maintenance and visitor and educational services
  • $ 77 million for the armed forces retirement home, $ 1.7 million more than the demand for improved security and healthcare infrastructure

The subcommittee will consider the bill on Friday, along with members’ amendments. It will then go to Committee of the Whole for consideration and additions, followed by a full vote in the House and reconciliation with the Senate – a process that is supposed to be completed by October 1 but has been delayed due to the Biden’s decision. the late publication by the administration of its budget request in May.

– Patricia Kime can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

Related: VA Gets Another Massive Funding Increase From Biden’s First Budget

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