Veterans Affairs Budget

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Contruction and VA passes draft FY10 funding bill

June 16, 2009 – 1:33 p.m.
Subcommittee Approves Spending Increases for Veterans’ Programs
By Matthew M. Johnson, CQ Staff

A House Appropriations subcommittee approved a draft bill Tuesday totaling $132.3 billion to fund the Veterans Affairs Department, military construction projects and other programs in fiscal 2010.

About $78 billion of that total would be discretionary spending, which is nearly 7 percent more than enacted in fiscal 2009 and $239 million more than the White House requested. About $54.4 billion would be mandatory spending. The Military Construction-VA Appropriations Subcommittee approved the bill by voice vote.

The discretionary total is about $1.4 billion more than the $76.5 billion allocation the subcommittee received last week from the full Appropriations Committee. The increase was to accommodate additional military construction activities in Afghanistan. The full committee is expected to formally approve the increase before sending the bill to the House floor.

The bill is scheduled for committee action June 24 and for floor action in early July.

About $109 billion of the overall total would go to the VA, which is 15 percent more than the amount appropriated for fiscal 2009 () and equal to President Obama’s budget request. Of that amount, $53 billion would be discretionary spending, about 11 percent more than fiscal 2009 levels.

The Veterans’ Benefits Administration, which pays out financial assistance, would receive a total of $56 billion, about 19 percent more than it received in fiscal 2009 and the same level as the president’s request.
Subcommittee Chairman Chet Edwards, D-Texas, stressed the need to hire more veterans’ claims processors.

“Knowing that veterans who have served our nation and answered Uncle Sam’s call when called, they should not have to wait six, eight, 10 and 12 months to get their earned benefits,” he said.

Accounts for the Veterans’ Health Administration, which runs the veterans’ hospital system and other programs, would receive $45.1 billion, roughly 11 percent more than fiscal 2009 levels and matching Obama’s request.

The legislation would also include money for veterans’ health programs in fiscal 2011, a move that would put the politically sensitive programs on a two-year budget cycle, making their funding more predictable.

In effect, appropriators would end up writing two budgets for the VA this year – one to provide fiscal 2010 funding for the whole department and the other to provide fiscal 2011 funding for just VA health programs.

The fiscal 2011 total for those accounts would be $48.2 billion, about 8 percent higher than what the bill would give them for fiscal 2010.

Edwards said the actuarial numbers that the VA provided for fiscal 2011 spending were nearly identical to figures the committee had estimated for the bill.

The advance funding figures attempt to compensate for an anticipated 4.4 percent rate of inflation for health care, as well as an expected increase in the number of veterans who seek treatment at VA facilities, Edwards said.

The portion of the bill dealing with the Defense Department – primarily for military construction projects, family housing, and base realignment and closure – would decrease by 7 percent in fiscal 2010, to a total of $23.3 billion. That would still be $317.7 million more than the administration requested.

Some defense-related accounts would grow, including military construction, which would increase to $12.9 billion, a 4 percent boost from fiscal 2009 totals. The White House requested $12.7 billion.

Family housing projects would take a hit, receiving the administration’s request of $2 billion – a 38 percent drop from fiscal 2009 levels.

Funding for projects related to the 2005 round of base realignments and closures would decline by 15 percent, for a total of $7.5 billion, the same amount requested by the administration.

Source: CQ Today Print Edition
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© 2009 Congressional Quarterly Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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