On July 10th, the House passed the FY 2010 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill (HR 3082) to fund critical veterans health services and the construction of facilities for training and housing our military. The bill will strengthen quality health care for more than six million patients - including 419,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill also provides advance funds for veterans health services in 2011, so that funding for our veterans' health care is timely and reliable.
With passage of this bill, Congress has provided a 58 percent increase in funding for veterans health care and benefits since January 2007. This funding has resulted in a total increase of 8,300 claims processors, 145 community-based outpatient clinics, 70 Vet Centers, and more than 47,000 additional Veterans Health Administration employees. These additional resources will provide our veterans with their benefits more quickly and improve access to health care and other services. Congress has also funded several initiatives to improve the quality of life for our military and their families to include: $2.8 billion for new military hospitals, $1 billion for new child care centers to serve 20,000 military children, and $570 million in additional funding for barracks.
Strengthening Veterans Health Care and Other Veterans Services
Department of Veterans Affairs: Provides nearly $109 billion, the same as the President's Request and $14.5 billion above 2009, for veterans medical care, claims processors, and facility improvements. To provide quality health care for our 5 million veterans, this bill provides $53 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs for FY 2010 -- $5.4 billion more than fiscal year 2009 non-emergency appropriations. This year's budget increase is on top of the unprecedented increase of $17.7 billion provided over the last two years.
Advanced VA Healthcare Funding: In addition, includes $48.2 billion in advance appropriations for fiscal year 2011 for three medical accounts: medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities. This is an 8 percent increase over FY 2010 and will provide reliable and timely funding to support the delivery of medical care.
- Medical Services: Provides $34.7 billion, 13 percent above 2009, to improve access to medical services for all veterans. The Veterans Health Administration estimates they will treat more than 6.1 million patients in 2010, including more than 419,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan (56,000 more than 2009).
- Mental Health: Provides $4.6 billion, $800 million above 2009, for mental health care - to meet the growing need with troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Rural Health: The Department estimates that $440 million will be spent in fiscal year 2010 on innovative practices to improve access to care for veterans in rural areas. More than 40 percent (3.2 million) of enrolled veterans live in rural areas.
- Medical Facilities: Provides $1.1 billion to address the backlog in non-recurring maintenance at our medical facilities, in combination with the FY 2009 Supplemental;
- Veterans Centers: Invests in 28 new Vet Centers and 30 new Community Based Outpatient Centers to provide community-based readjustment counseling for veterans and their families.
- Medical and Prosthetic Research: Provides $580 million for medical and prosthetic research related to veterans health, including a $48 million increase for research to address the critical needs of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans.
- Priority 8 Veterans: Includes $533 million to expand eligibility for VA health care to an estimated 266,000 non-service-disabled veterans earning more than $30,000 a year, so-called Priority 8 veterans. The Obama Administration is aiming to enroll 500,000 new Priority 8 veterans in the VA health care system by 2013.
- Assistance for Homeless Vets: Provides $3.2 billion, 40 percent above 2009, including $26 million for a Presidential Initiative to combat homelessness, $150 million for the homeless grants and per diem program, $20 million for supportive services for low income veterans and families, in addition to $21 million to hire additional personnel for the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program.
- Working to Reduce Veterans Claims Backlog: Adds roughly 1,200 additional claims processors to continue to work down the backlog of benefits claims and to reduce the time to process new claims. Currently nearly 397,000 veterans' claims are pending.
- Information Technology: Provides $3.3 billion, 30 percent above 2009, with new initiatives including paperless benefits processing and improvements in electronic health records.
- Inspector General: Includes $107 million, 17 percent above 2009, to provide additional oversight personnel, including initiatives regarding financial audit and information technology program reviews.
Strengthening Support for Troops and Military Families
Military Construction: Provides $24.6 billion, 8 percent below 2009, including $1.4 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. The decline in BRAC construction requirements and the success of the family housing privatization program reduce the need for increasing investments in military construction.
- Trainee Troop Housing: Provides $450 million to accelerate the Army's program to modernize troop housing facilities for trainees. The Army needs $2.2 billion to bring all 115,413 trainee barracks spaces up to standard and the program currently is not scheduled to finish until 2017.
- National Guard and Reserve Facilities: Includes $200 million in additional funding for Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy and Marine Corps Reserve, and Air Force Reserve construction to address critical unfunded requirements, in recognition of the tremendous contributions made by Guard and Reserve personnel to emergency assistance, homeland security, and national defense.
- Military Family Housing: Provides $2 billion, same as the President's Request, to continue eliminating inadequate military family housing.
- Child Care Centers for Military Families: To help military families, the bill invests in two new child development Centers to add child care space for more than 300 children. This builds on the progress of the recent supplemental which provides for the construction of 25 new child development centers at military bases, which will provide care for an additional 5,000 kids.
- Overseas Contingency Operations: Includes $1.4 billion to support additional military construction requirements to support operations and troop increases in Afghanistan.
- BRAC 1990 Environmental Cleanup: Provides $537 million, $78 million above 2009, to address the large unfunded backlog of environmental cleanup for bases that were closed during the four previous BRAC rounds.
- 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and Re-stationing: Provides $7.5 billion to implement base closures and realignments, and support the re-stationing of troops and their families from overseas to the United States.
- The 12 Appropriations Bills Are Fiscally Responsible - $10 Billion Below the President's Proposed Budget: The budget adopted by the Congress in April required a cut in discretionary spending in FY 2010 of $10 billion below President Obama's budget. As a result, the 12 FY 2010 appropriations bills overall must be $10 billion below the President's budget.
- This Bill Cuts Funding below 2009 For 10 Programs - Achieving Gross Savings of $3.2 billion: The Military Construction- VA bill is fiscally responsible, targeting dollars to high-priority needs, while cutting funding below 2009 for 10 programs. For example, the bill reduces funding for state extended care facilities as projects have been completed.