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New bill provides VA accountability

On Dec. 16, President Barack Obama singed into law H.R. 83, the fiscal year (FY) 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The bill includes funding for key military infrastructure projects to support troops and their families at home and abroad. It also includes increased funding to meet obligations to our nation’s veterans, including helping to increase the efficiency and interoperability of the combined Department of Defense (DOD)/Veteran Affairs (VA) medical records system, and to reduce the claims backlog at the VA.

Additionally, to help address issue related to last year’s VA wait list scanal, funding for the VA Office of Inspector General is increased by $5 million over the FY 2014 level to provide the resources necessary to continue audits of hospital appointment scheduling and lapses in patient care. The legislation also includes language directing the VAOMI to report on problems or deficiencies in the implementation of its recommendations, and on any violations of law by VA employees.

Overall, the bill provides:

  • $1.2 billion to fund construction, operation, and maintenance of military family housing for FY 2015. The funding will ensure quality housing is continued for 1,926,500 military families.
  • $416 million for construction and alterations for new or existing military medical facilities. These facilities support and care for 9.8 million eligible beneficiaries, including wounded troops abroad.
  • $394.5 million for essential safety improvements and infrastructure work at seven DoD education activities facilities located within the U.S. and overseas. The funding will help address health, safety, and efficiency problems at these facilities for military children and families.
  • $427 million for construction or alteration of National Guard and reserve facilities in 18 states.
  • $45.2 billion in VA medical services. This inlcudes $7.2 billion in mental health care services; $133 million in suicide prevention activities; $229 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $7.4 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing and job training; and $250 million in rural health initiatives.
  • $209 million to help address new costs related to the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, such as hiring medical staff, expanding facility capacity and implementing the Caregivers Act, which provides stipends and other assistance to families of seriously wounded veterans.
  • $344 million to help DoD and VA develop electronic health records that will seamlessly transfer medical information.
  • $2.5 billion for the cost of processing disability claims.
  • $562 million in VA major construction. Funds will be used for correcting critical seismic deficiencies and repairing crumbling infrastructure in some of the VA’s oldest structures.
  • $58.7 billion in advance FY 2016 funding for the VA. This funding will provide medical services, medical support and compliance and medical facilities, and ensure that our veterans have continued access to their medical care.

New members of the 114th Congress
To see a list of the new members, visit: www.legion.org/documents/legion/word/114thCongress.docx