VA funding bill approved

by Jenn Rowell

Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed a funding bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs for the next year as part of the budget deal to avoid a government shutdown. 

The bill also includes military construction funding for the next year. 

Parts of the bill originated in the Senate Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, on which Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., sits as a ranking member. 

According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, it’s the first time since 2009 that a regular appropriations bill has been signed into law before the start of a fiscal year. The new fiscal year starts Saturday.

The bill totals $83 billion in discretionary funding and is $3.1 billion above the current fiscal year and $160 million above the president’s budget request, according to the Senate committee.

“This bill provides additional resources that will increase veterans access to care at the VA and in their community,” Tester said in a release.

Highlights of VA funding include:

  • VA Medical Care: $65 billion to support treatment and care for about 9.2 million patients, including $7.2 billion for the new Medical Community Care account to provide non-VA care; $1.5 billion for the treatment of Hepatitis C; $675 million for medical and prosthetic research; $535 million for health care specifically for female veterans; $5.7 billion to care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans; $284 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $735 million for the Caregivers Program; and $250 million for rural health initiatives.
  • $260 million for continued modernization of the VA electronic health record system.
  • •$180 million for the paperless claims processing system, $143 million for digital scanning of health records, and $27 million for centralized mail.
  • Nearly $900 million for major and minor construction associated with VA hospital replacement, continued correction of seismic deficiencies, scores of projects to improve access to VA health care, and the VA’s National Cemeteries.

The bill also includes $14.6 million for a new missile maintenance dispatch facility at Malmstrom Air Force Base, which was included in the proposed Air Force budget earlier this year.