Last year, Congress sent several DAV-championed bills to the president’s desk, including the historic expansion of benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances. But another sizeable legislative package enacted in December includes dozens of other provisions that will touch the lives of veterans nationwide.
The $1.7 trillion omnibus bill, which will fund the federal government through September, increases the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget to over $303 billion, the agency’s highest ever.
“It’s our responsibility to take care of the men and women in uniform who took care of us in protecting this country—and that starts by ensuring access to the care and benefits they’ve earned with this bipartisan package,” said Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I’m proud the Senate came together to pass a full-year funding bill that’ll help us make good on that promise, including to our toxic-exposed veterans.”
Part of the increase in VA funding reflects an uptick in veterans’ demand for claims and services under the Honoring our PACT Act, which expanded VA health care and benefits to millions of veterans. Within VA’s new budget, $119 billion is set aside for medical care, a 22% increase over fiscal year 2022 levels. It also dedicates nearly $4 billion to administer benefits, including compensation, and $5 billion solely for implementing the PACT Act.
However, that’s not all there is for veterans.
The more than 4,000-page bill also includes more than 60 other DAV-supported provisions to further strengthen VA health care and veterans benefits.
Veterans whose clothing has been damaged by a prosthesis, skin medication or orthopedic device—including wheelchairs—are eligible for a clothing allowance. But they were needlessly burdened by an annual application process, even for those requiring such equipment for the rest of their lives.
This provision cuts the red tape by allowing VA to provide these payments on a recurring and automatic annual basis.
It also makes the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program permanent, providing employment and job training for homeless veterans, expanding Vet Center eligibility for mental health services, and setting money aside to study suicide prevention efforts and research traumatic brain injury and PTSD in post-9/11 veterans.
For a more comprehensive list of veterans provisions included in the omnibus and other legislation enacted in 2022 during the second session of the 117th Congress, check out DAV’s Victories for Veterans at dav.la/3b6.
“We’re heartened to see so many DAV’s priorities make it into this final bipartisan funding package,” said DAV National Legislative Director Joy Ilem. “And a properly funded VA is crucial to providing our veterans the service and benefits they’ve earned. As a new Congress settles in, I encourage all DAV members to join the Commander’s Action Network to stay on top of issues and take action on vital legislation.”
Find updates to other major veteran legislation by joining DAV CAN (Commander’s Action Network) at DAVCAN.org.