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Legion encouraged by 2015 VA budget proposal

Legion encouraged by 2015 VA budget proposal

The Department of Veterans Affairs is asking Congress to approve a $163.9 billion budget in fiscal 2015, an increase of about $10.1 billion over the department’s fiscal 2014 funding.

The 2015 budget would provide $68.4 billion in discretionary funding, which includes $56 billion for VA medical care, about $1.6 billion to help end veterans’ homelessness, and $1 billion to create the Veterans Job Corps. The budget also includes $95.6 billion for VA’s mandatory programs, including disability compensation and pensions for veterans.

The funding would provide health care for 9.3 million enrolled veterans, 6.7 million patients, and about 97 million outpatient visits. It would also provide disability compensation for 1.5 million veterans or survivors, and vocational/educational benefits for another 1.2 million veterans.

In VA’s ongoing war against its disability claims backlog, $138.7 million would be allocated for the Veterans Claims Intake Program, which would continue to implement the paperless claims system and improve veterans’ access to benefits information.

Looking ahead to fiscal 2016, the budget is proposing $58.7 billion in advance appropriations for VA medical care programs.

American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said that advance appropriations need to be included for all VA programs. "We recognize the primary importance of VA’s health care for our veterans, but we want to see all VA programs protected by advance appropriations, including benefits payments," he said. "That way, if our federal government decides to shut down again, America’s veterans won’t be left to worry about whether their benefits checks will show up on time."

A bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., the "Putting Veterans Funding First Act of 2013," would provide advance funding to all VA programs. The bill (H.R. 813) passed the House last September and awaits Senate action.

The total budget request of about $1 billion for VA major ($562 million) and minor ($495 million) construction falls far short of The American Legion’s recommendation of about $6 billion annually for a decade – based on the recommendation of VA’s own Strategic Capital Investment Planning program, which indicated that VA needed $53 to $65 billion for construction over a 10-year period.

Dellinger testified to Congress last year that The American Legion "is very concerned about the lack of funding in the Major and Minor Construction accounts.... Clearly, if this underfunding continues, VA will never fix its identified deficiencies within its ten-year plan."

More than $7 billion in the budget would be used to expand and improve mental-health services for veterans, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and military sexual trauma. The funding would allow VA to continue its collaborative work on mental health with the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Finding effective treatments for PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) are a primary concern of The American Legion. It conducted a month-long survey in February for veterans suffering from one or both of these conditions. Results of this survey will be announced and discussed at a TBI/PTSD symposium the Legion is tentatively planning for the spring.

The $1.6 billion budgeted to help homeless veterans would include $500 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, and $321 million for the Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing program. This investment is intended to help achieve VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s goal of eliminating homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015.

Dellinger said he was encouraged by the overall increase in VA’s budget increase, but that he would be weighing in with specific recommendations when he testifies in Washington on March 26 before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees.

 

More in Veterans Benefits Center

 

Frank P Calderon

March 29, 2014 - 10:04pm

I agree whole heartedly, be cause all that, that is all about is to secure support from us veterans one way or another, which should not be. We already have given all we could, and some of us paid the ultimate price with our life to secure the freedom of all ( 365 or 400 million citizens, so that all enjoy their freedom, not a small handful to pit one segment against the other in our country. Yours for God and Country Frank P Calderon

Frank PCalderon

March 15, 2014 - 8:23pm

Dear Commander: The government always finds ways to cut benefits from those who need it most including, veterans, but never from their own over bloated wages and perks they receive in compensation out off the contributions the needy sacrifice much from their meager wages and/or retirement funds and earnigs.

Frank PCalderon

March 15, 2014 - 8:40pm

Dear Commander: Incidentally, these government employees, neglect to mention that their wages and perks have been subsidized from the need of the poor, the taxes and contributions, tariffs, fees, levies whatsoever you choose to call them they are synonymous of taxes, as the popular adage goes," No matter how you slice it, its still baloney."

Janet L. Miller

March 14, 2014 - 5:36am

I am a disabled veteran and have been fighting VA for more then just a 20% award amount, and a daughter of a 3 war veteran, my father who died at 58 years of age due to complications with Agent Orange and no help from VA what so ever. It saddens me to see the commercials on television, (although I'm thankful), but sadden by the fact that we now have commercials asking for monthly donations for the "Wounded Warrior Project". I'm disabled but it's a shame that the very same government we all served, are treating wounded/disabled veterans just like they did during/after Vietnam. Can anyone explain this to me?????

Pastor Larry

March 7, 2014 - 12:10pm

It is about time that both parties understand that the Veterans are the one who gave them their freedom. Most of the people has never serve in the Armed Force. They are there to get paid and do nothing. They promise in speches that they are for the Veterans and once in office, they forget what they said. Most of them are a joke.

Mc Donald Yancey

March 13, 2014 - 9:24pm

amen to that my brother' I think the American people need to voted the whole dam political process out and start over again because the system we have not is just not fair at all only for the rich and powerful if you don't fit in either of those groups then you S.O.L

Jerry Mangum

March 7, 2014 - 8:26am

I think all Politian’s should get two terms in office and let some new blood have a change to make thing happen. In today’s, government it all about power not the PEOPLE and guest what the PEOPLE pays the government salary for the government to slowly take away programs that are needed all across this nation. We the people regardless what party you vote for should always hold your elected officials accountable and quick fight among each other and look at the big picture. Your government is guarantee to get incentives, kickbacks, and benefits while they make decisions that impact people lives on a regular basics.

William P Thompson

March 7, 2014 - 3:01am

I as a world war II VET think that we need to take care of veterans we have, ,an will put our lifes on the line for all,not a few ,but we need the help of the Republican Party to stop poiticizing VA BENEFITS,by attaching other unrelated tems to t heir bills.

Anonymous

March 6, 2014 - 4:54pm

I think the Republican party should stop politicizing VA benefits, by attaching other unrelated items to their bills.

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