Spending Bill Spares VA From Cuts
By Dave Autry
The House of Representatives has approved legislation providing $135.4 billion for veterans programs and services in the next fiscal year. Of that amount, $60.7 billion is discretionary funding for the VA, about a four-percent increase over this year’s level. Military construction, also included in the bill, was cut by 2.4 percent compared to the current level.
The measure, which has yet to be taken up by the full Senate, includes $44.4 billion for medical services, including third-party collections. That is $2.3 billion more than provided in fiscal 2012. About $52 billion for medical care, which includes medical services, medical support and compliance and medical facilities, was provided in fiscal 2012 through advance appropriations.
Included in the bill is $54.5 billion in advance appropriations for veterans medical care for fiscal year 2014.
Also included is $608 million for minor construction projects, well below DAV’s recommended level of $3.6 billion.
“Although the bill provides an increase in VA funding, the fact remains that more resources are sorely needed to meet the needs of our injured and ill veterans,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski. “DAV and other veterans groups have recommended an additional $1.5 billion for medical care and $3 billion more for major and minor construction projects to maintain the VA’s critical infrastructure.”
Included in the bill is $6.2 billion specifically for mental health services, $73 million for suicide prevention and $220 million for traumatic brain injury treatment. Another $5.8 billion is for treatment services, housing and job training for homeless veterans and $250 million is for rural health services.
Under the bill, 75 percent of funds for the integrated medical record program between the VA and the Department of Defense would be withheld until the program office submits a schedule for data standardization and a report to Congress on the program’s annual spending.
“DAV members are urged to contact their lawmakers and urge them to fully fund the VA at the levels recommended in The Independent Budget
,” said National Legislative Director Joseph A. Violante. “Tell Congress to honor our promises to the men and women who have served and sacrificed for this country.”