DAV Calls on Congress to Strengthen VA Budget

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President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal for the Department of Veterans Affairs weighed in at almost $164 billion, including $68.4 billion in discretionary spending and $95.6 billion for mandatory programs such as disability compensation and pensions for veterans.

The largest portion of the VA’s discretionary budget, veterans’ medical care, would be funded at $56 billion, a 2.7-percent increase from 2014’s appropriations. That includes $3.1 billion in estimated medical care collections. Another $589 million is for medical and prosthetic research, and $7 billion is for expanding mental health services.

The proposal calls for $138.7 million to convert paper evidence, such as medical records, into a digital format and $173.3 million for the Veterans Benefits Management System.

“While we are encouraged that the Administration’s budget increases funding for claims processing and veterans’ medical services, we believe the proposal falls some $2 billion short of the real need in medical care, especially nonrecurring maintenance,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “We also are gravely concerned about whether VA will have adequate resources to maintain its existing infrastructure. VA must begin to request and receive sufficient funding to repair, renovate and replace aging hospitals, clinics and other critical facilities in order to continue delivering services and benefits to America’s wounded, injured and ill veterans.”

“Congress must provide the VA with all the resources needed to keep rapidly aging facilities safe and operational for the proper care and treatment of millions of veterans,” said National Adjutant Marc Burgess. “We believe the VA will need $31 billion over the next decade for major and minor construction projects.”

“DAV will continue to work with Congress to provide $72.9 billion in discretionary funding to sufficiently meet veterans health care and benefits needs,” said National Legislative Director Joseph Violante. “The continued underfunding of construction and maintenance threatens the VA’s ability to continue providing safe, effective medical care.”

The chart below compares funding levels recommended in The Independent Budget to the Administration’s fiscal year 2015 proposal.