SUMMARY: Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, And Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Bill
Washington, D.C. – The Committee provided $124.4 billion in discretionary funding for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Activities, $11.2 billion more than fiscal year 2021 and $1.1 billion more than the President’s budget request. Additionally, the bill includes $155.4 billion in mandatory funding for VA to provide disability compensation and education benefit payments to veterans.
U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Chair of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee, said:
“This bill takes a bipartisan approach to improve the readiness and quality of life for servicemembers in uniform, and enable the Department of Veterans Affairs to care for our nation’s veterans. The bill provides a significant increase in funding for military construction and family housing, and supports the Department of Defense to increase its energy and climate resilience. It also provides a groundbreaking investment in VA healthcare and research, and VA’s efforts to hire additional claims raters to process newly expanded benefits related to Agent Orange.”
This bill provides $11 billion for Military Construction and Family Housing, which is $2.9 billion above fiscal year 2021 enacted. This significant increase will resource the Department to address critical infrastructure requirements that contribute to long-term operational readiness as well as quality of life for servicemembers and their families. The bill funds 176 major construction projects and provides $1.4 billion for family housing construction and operations and maintenance.
Key areas of military construction funding in the bill include:
- Operational, Training, and Support Facilities – $5.3 billion for infrastructure that supports base operations and improves quality of life. This includes funding for airfield and pier improvements, training ranges, maintenance shops, and hangars, as well as hospitals and medical facilities, schools, troop housing, and child development centers.
- Energy Resilience – $371.7 million for the Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program. This funds more than 20 energy and water projects such as PV arrays and battery storage, new generation plant and microgrid construction, and water treatment and production infrastructure. It also includes $10 million for planning and design to allow DoD to better understand installation infrastructure requirements to support its transition to an electric vehicle fleet.
- Climate Adaptation – $50 million for planning and design and minor construction for the services to enhance Military Installation Resilience, with a particular focus on climate resilience, given the enormous fiscal and operational cost of natural disasters to DoD infrastructure. This builds on the $90 million appropriated for this purpose over the past two years and will better resource DoD to plan for, and mitigate, the consequences of climate change and extreme weather events.
- Laboratory Infrastructure – $75 million to improve DoD science and technology, and research, development, testing, and evaluation infrastructure. DoD laboratories provide critical research and testing capabilities and this funding will allow DoD to address its most pressing lab infrastructure needs.
- Base Closure and Realignment – $334.6 million for environmental cleanup of bases closed through the BRAC process. This is $50 million above the budget request to address PFOS/PFOA identification, mitigation, and clean-up as well as enduring costs associated with ordnance disposal and other remedial needs.
The bill also includes $1.185 billion in Congressionally Directed Spending, which funds 66 requests from Senators. These address critical needs in states across the country, in addition to projects funded in response to the President’s budget request.
Department of Veterans Affairs
The bill provides VA with $112.9 billion in discretionary spending and $155.4 billion in mandatory spending. In addition, the bill provides advanced appropriations for fiscal year 2023, including $111.3 billion for veterans medical care and $156.6 billion for veterans benefits. This provides VA with resources needed to provide health care for 9.2 million veterans, including deferred care from the COVID-19 pandemic, disability compensation benefits to nearly 6 million veterans and their survivors, and pension benefits for over 357,000 veterans and their survivors.
- Benefits Program Administration – The bill provides $3.5 billion, $259 million over fiscal year 2021 enacted and $63 million more than the request. This increase will support additional claims processors and initiatives to address the claims backlog, including claims resulting from new laws and interpretations related to toxic exposures, such as Agent Orange.
- VA Medical Care – The bill provides $97.5 billion, $7.5 billion more than fiscal year 2021 enacted to provide essential health services for veterans, and support the Department in addressing the demands of the pandemic, including vaccinations and deferred care. The bill funds critical priorities including:
- Rural Health – $327 million, $27 million more than fiscal year 2021 and $20 million more than the request. These funds will support improved access to care, including expanded access to transportation and telehealth.
- Caregivers Program – $1.4 billion, $208 million more than fiscal year 2021 and $50 million more than the request, to help the department quickly expand this critical program.
- Women’s Health – $820 million, $81 million more than fiscal year 2021 and $10 million more than the request for gender-specific healthcare services, as well as initiatives to enhance women veterans healthcare, and improvements to healthcare facilities.
- Veteran Homelessness Prevention – $2.2 billion, $246 more than in fiscal year 2021 and equal to the request. These funds will support critical services and housing assistance for veterans and their families experiencing housing insecurity, many as a result of the pandemic.
- Mental Health – $13.2 billion, $2.9 billion more than in fiscal year 2021 and equal to the request. This includes $2.3 billion for suicide prevention outreach and treatment.
- Medical and Prosthetics Research – The bill makes a historic level of investment into research, providing $882 million for this fiscal year, $67 million more than fiscal year 2021 and equal to the request. This supports ongoing and new research in areas such as toxic exposures, traumatic brain injury, and precision oncology.
- Infrastructure – The bill strengthens VA’s infrastructure by including $1.6 billion for major construction, $553 million for minor construction, and $50 million to continue funding the state veteran home construction grant program, which provides expansion and enhancements to state homes where veterans live.
- Information Technology – The bill provides $4.8 billion for information technology systems, in addition to $2.5 billion to continue the Department’s work to roll out the electronic health record to facilities across the country.
The bill funds four small but important independent agencies: The American Battle Monuments Commission; the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; Arlington National Cemetery; and the Armed Forces Retirement Home.
- American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) operates and maintains 26 military cemeteries as well as 40 markers and monuments that honor the service and sacrifice of American military personnel, including those that perished overseas. The bill provides $87.5 million, which is $3.4 million above fiscal year 2021 enacted, for ABMC activities.
- U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) is the arbitrator of disability eligibility decisions by the VA Board of Appeals. The bill provides $41.7 million for CAVC, which is $4.6 million over fiscal year 2021 enacted.
- Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) serves as a national military cemetery as well as a host of roughly 3.5 million visitors each year. The bill funds ANC at $228 million, an increase of $146.2 million above fiscal year 2021. This includes $141 million to complete the Southern Expansion project, which will provide additional burial space to ensure the viability of the cemetery into the 2060s.
- Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH) operates and maintains two historic campuses, in Washington D.C. and Gulfport, Mississippi, which provide healthcare and residential services to elderly veterans and their spouses. The bill funds AFRH at $76.3 million, which is $1 million above fiscal year 2021 enacted.
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