VA medical centers throughout the nation will finally have on-time budgets if American Legion-supported legislation, passed June 23 in the U.S. House of Representatives, becomes law. The Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 was one of four veteran-related measures approved by lawmakers on the same day.
The budget-reform act authorizes Congress to set VA's funding levels one year in advance of any new fiscal year. "Advance appropriations" would provide VA administrators with more predictable budgets to help them plan and meet changes in the demand for health-care services. It would also end an era in which VA has begun 19 of the last 22 new fiscal years without a budget.
The House also passed:
• A bill that directs VA to provide a cost-of-living adjustment to compensation rates for service-disabled veterans and their survivors.
• A measure to launch a new VA Web site listing scholarships available to veterans and their survivors.
• The Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act, which expands medical services for female veterans, particularly those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
American Legion National Commander David K. Rehbein said he is delighted the House leadership fulfilled a promise to improve federal services for veterans. "Last week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer pledged to make veterans bills a top priority," Rehbein said. "Their colleagues on the House floor have now echoed that commitment to our most deserving citizens."
The commander commended the House Veterans Affairs Committee, in particular, for the bipartisan efforts necessary to encourage passage of the legislation. "Our heartfelt gratitude is also extended to those in the Legion, and in our colleague veterans service organizations, who have worked so diligently – in some cases, for years – to promote these vital advances in care for our veterans."