Legion pleased with fiscal 2010 funding bill

Congress is on the verge of passing the fiscal 2010 omnibus bill that includes appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction. It will provide $134.6 billion for programs and projects of critical importance to America's veterans, military forces and families.

"This level of funding is going to bring a world of relief to many military families," American Legion National Commander Clarence Hill said. "Some of them had to sell their homes when they were ordered to other locations. With the current housing market, no one envies their situation and the unfair financial burdens they've had to deal with."

The measure gives VA $56.6 billion for its mandatory programs, and another $53 billion in discretionary funding - making the appropriations higher than they've ever received ($15.3 billion more than in fiscal 2009).

In a major victory for America's veterans, the bill (H.R. 3082) includes - for the first time - advance VA appropriations to ensure stable funding sources for veterans' medical care. For fiscal 2011, Congress has already allocated $48.2 billion for VA health-care programs.

"We made a tremendous effort, over the course of several years, to convince senators and representatives that providing advance appropriations would greatly benefit veterans in the VA health-care system," Hill said. "That effort finally paid off. The advance appropriations bill is now law, and VA ‘s health care should be delivered in a timely manner from now on."

Congress will provide $23.3 billion for military construction and family housing, and another $1.4 billion for projects that support U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"We certainly appreciate the fact that Congress increased the original budget request for construction projects that are critical to the mission and quality of life for servicemembers and their families," Hill said. "The American Legion heartily urges the House and Senate to continue this level of investment in our active-duty forces and veterans."

The bill also funds renewable and alternative energy initiatives at military installations that will reduce future energy costs. Housing for military trainees will be modernized and more construction for National Guard and reserve forces will be funded.

The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Act of 1990 will also get more funding so it can be completed on time, with high-quality construction and sufficient environmental cleanup at closed military installations.