The truth about the VA Budget

Congress and the President acted on the funding needs of the entire federal budget before adjournment for the Holiday. The national legislative staff wanted to provide you a synopsis of the funding levels approved for veterans benefits and health care in the omnibus act.

On December 18, Congress passed and the President signed into law H.R. 2029, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. This legislation provides the FY 2016 funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and includes advance appropriations for FY 2017 for most VA health care and mandatory spending programs.

The bill includes almost $163 billion in total discretionary and mandatory funding for VA for fiscal year 2016. This includes $91 billion in mandatory funding and $71 billion in discretionary funding.

Advance Appropriations: The bill includes $63 billion ($3 billion less than recommended by the Independent Budget (IB)) in fiscal year 2017 advance funding for VA medical care and $103 billion in fiscal year 2017 advance funding for VA’s mandatory programs for compensation and pension.

Medical Programs for FY 2016: The Veterans Health Administration, including its research programs, is funded at $62 billion ($2 billion less than recommended by the IB), $1 billion more than the Administration’s requested level and $5 billion more than fiscal year 2015.

Medical Care Highlights:

Hepatitis C Treatments. – $1.5 billion for new Hepatitis C treatments.
Women Veterans.-$5 billion in total health care for women veterans who use the VA health system. This includes $446 million for gender-specific health care.
Caregivers.-for the family caregivers program, $605 million ($50 million more than requested by the Administration).
Vet Centers.-$258 million to fund readjustment counseling.
Homeless Programs.- $1.4 billion.
Mental Health.-$7.5 billion, including $381 million for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, $612 million for substance abuse treatment and $144 million for suicide prevention outreach.
Rural Health.-$270 million for programs of the Office of Rural Health.
Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans.-The bill includes funding of $4.9 billion to treat almost 845,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.
Traumatic Brain Injury.-$232 million in care for veterans suffering traumatic brain injury or other polytraumatic injuries.
Long-Term Care.-$7.5 billion for institutional and non-institutional long-term services.
Medical and Prosthetic Research.-The bill includes almost $631 million, $42 million more than fiscal year 2015 and $9 million more than requested by the Administration.

Other:

Claims Processing: The bill includes $2.7 billion ($89 million less than recommended by the IB) for claims processing, $173 million more than last year’s level of $2.53 billion and $10 million more than the request.
Construction: Major Construction, $1.24 billion ($686 million less than recommended by the IB) for major construction projects; for minor construction, $406 million ($169 million less than recommended by the IB).
Grants for the Construction of State Veterans Homes: $120 million ($80 million less than recommended by the IB).
Information Technology (IT): The bill provides $4.1 billion ($158 million more than recommended by the IB) to modernize and sustain VA’s information technology systems.

In some respects (especially when compared to the IB), this appropriation is lacking in terms of known and projected needs. However, the overall rate of increase in funding for veterans’ programs is welcome.

Our entire DAV family sends good wishes to you and yours for a safe and happy Holiday Season and we look forward to continuing our advocacy with your assistance in 2016.

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