On March 22, Congress passed H.R. 1625, the legislative vehicle for fiscal year (FY) 2018 government spending. President Trump signed the bill March 23. The overall bill contains $1.3 trillion to fund the operations of the federal government until Sept. 30, 2018 – fiscal year 2019 begins Oct. 1.
The following are highlights of the bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
VA programs will receive $81.5 billion in discretionary funding for the balance of FY18, an increase of $7.1 billion above the FY17 level. Highlights include:
- VA medical care – $68.8 billion will support medical treatment and health care for approximately 9.2 million enrolled patients in FY18. This includes $5.5 billion to care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans; $8.4 billion in mental health care services; $7.3 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing and job training; $840 million for the essential Caregiver program; $751 million for Hepatitis C treatment; $722 million for medical and prosthetic research; $525 million for women veterans health care; $316 million for treatment of traumatic brain injury; $270 million for rural health initiatives; and $196 million for suicide prevention outreach activities.
- Disability claims processing – $115 million for digital scanning of health records; $38 million for the paperless claims processing system; and $27 million for centralized mail.
- Construction – $855 million for major and minor construction associated with VA hospital replacement, corrections of seismic deficiencies, projects to improve access to VA health care, and VA’s national cemeteries.
- Electronic Health Records (EHR) – $782 million is set aside for VA’s new EHR contract. The bill creates a new account to fund this initiative and monitor the spending associated with the new Cerner contract.
- Opioid treatment – $386 million, a $12.5 million increase, to fund opioid treatment and prevention throughout the VA.
Funding for related agencies of interest to The American Legion include:
- American Battle Monuments Commission – $79 million.
- U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims – $334 million.
- Arlington National Cemetery – $248 million.
- Armed Forces Retirement Home – $64.3 million.