Tester Secures Billions to Support Military Projects and Veterans Nationwide in Federal Funding Bill
Senator secures provisions to tackle claims backlog, increase oversight of community care, track open-air burn pit exposures, ensure accountability for the Electronic Health Record Modernization program, expand military sexual trauma care, and more
U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, secured critical funding and provisions in an omnibus consisting of 12 fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills. This includes fiscal year 2022 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies legislation to support military projects and expand medical care and benefits for veterans nationwide.
“Over the past year, I’ve worked with both Democrats and Republicans to help craft a bill that does right by our veterans, supports our servicemembers, and rebuilds our infrastructure,” said Tester. “I’m proud to have secured provisions that’ll deliver stronger care and benefits by tackling the growing claims backlog, improving the electronic health record system, and expanding medical services to veterans living in rural areas and suffering from conditions related to their military toxic exposures. This bill will ensure our fighting men and women have the resources they need both during and after their time in uniform, and I look forward to the President quickly signing it into law.”
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester plays a key role in crafting the 12 bills that fund the federal government each year. Among the provisions secured, Tester included $3.5 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to increase staffing and tackle the growing disability claims backlog and $10 million to assist the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in tracking the effects of open-air burn pits on veterans.
As part of his ongoing effort to address long-standing issues with the planning and deployment of the new VA system, the Senator successfully secured language ensuring accountability for the Electronic Health Record Modernization program. He also included a provision directing VA to conduct a study of the availability of inpatient mental health treatment for survivors of military sexual trauma, and doubled down on his push for VA to develop a national strategic plan for breast imaging services as proposed under his Making Advances in Mammography and Medical Options (MAMMO) for Veterans Act. To improve veterans’ access to care, he additionally included provisions to expand oversight of VA community care and dental networks.
Among the military-related provisions Tester successfully included are:
- $14.9 billion for military construction projects including:
- $1.4 billion for family housing;
- $141 million for Arlington National Cemetery’s southern expansion;
- $224 million for Child Development Centers;
- $215 million for the NATO Security Investment Program to support challenges posed by Russia; and
- $150 million for PFOS/PFOA cleanup.
Chairman Tester has worked tirelessly to ensure that Montana’s veterans and their families have the resources they need and earned. The bill provides VA with $112.6 billion in discretionary spending and $157 billion in mandatory spending. In addition, the bill provides advanced appropriations for fiscal year 2023, including $111.3 billion for veterans medical care and $161 billion for veterans benefits.
Among the veterans provisions Tester successfully included are:
- $97.5 billion for VA medical care including:
- $13.2 billion for mental health;
- $2.2 billion for veteran homelessness prevention;
- $1.4 billion for the Caregivers Program;
- $840 million for women’s health; and
- $327 million for rural health.
- $5.5 billion for information technology systems;
- $3.5 billion for VBA operating expenses and claims processors;
- $2.2 billion for VA infrastructure;
- $882 million for medical and prosthetics research, including in areas such as toxic exposures, traumatic brain injury, and precision oncology;
- $239 million for VA’s Office of Inspector General to conduct ongoing oversight and investigations of waste, fraud, and abuse; and
- $125 million for the Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses (VET TEC) pilot program, which provides tuition and housing assistance to veterans in high-tech, high demand career training.
Tester also secured language to allow state veterans’ cemeteries to bury Guard and Reservists without penalty from the federal government, fix a loophole that prevented tribal veterans’ cemeteries from receiving plot allowances, and authorize VA to increase salary limits for certain nurse and physician assistant positions.
A summary of the 2022 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill is available HERE.