FY17 Military Construction & VA Full Committee Markup Bill Summary
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION AND VETERANS AFFAIRS, AND RELATED AGENCIES FISCAL YEAR 2017 APPROPRIATIONS BILL
Full Committee Mark: April 14, 2016
Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Senate Appropriations Full Committee ordered reported the fiscal year 2017 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, which provides $83 billion in discretionary funding, $3.2 billion above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level.
In addition to discretionary funding, the bill provides $102.5 billion in mandatory compensation and pension funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The bill also provides $66.4 billion in fiscal year 2018 advance funding for veterans health care and $103.9 billion for fiscal year 2018 advance funding for the VA’s compensation and pensions mandatory accounts.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member of the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, said:
“This bill acknowledges that by investing in our nation’s military facilities we are strengthening our national security and increasing readiness to combat growing threats. This bill also honors our country’s commitment to the men and women who have bravely served. I look forward to working with my colleagues to push this and other appropriations bills forward.”
U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement:
“I am glad we’re moving VA and Military Construction bill to the head of the line, so promises made to our nation’s veterans are promises kept. The bill funds an array of vital programs for the health and well-being of our nation’s veterans and military troops as well as their families. This is a well-balanced bill, and I thank Chairman Kirk and Ranking Member Tester for their hard work and cooperation in crafting it. This bill makes good on and continues the practice of advance appropriations for veterans benefits, which I first included in the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill as Chairwoman of the Committee. It also provides additional funding above the request level to address the VA claims backlog. Considerable work has been done to eliminate the backlog in processing initial claims, but unfortunately the backlog in appeals is rapidly building, so this additional funding to hire 300 new claims processors and 240 additional employees for the Board of Veterans Appeals is crucial. The bill addresses the specific needs of female veterans, providing funding for gender-specific care as well as the research and acquisition of prosthetic devices specifically for women.”
The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies bill provides the funding to meet both the mission-critical and quality-of-life infrastructure requirements of our military service members and their families. It also funds a wide range of programs for America’s 21.7 million veterans, including disability compensation and pensions, medical care and research, and hospital and clinic construction. In addition, the bill funds four Related Agencies that support our troops and veterans: the American Battle Monuments Commission, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Arlington National Cemetery and the Armed Forces Retirement Home.
The bill provides $74.9 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, $3.4 billion over the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Military Construction and Family Housing funding is $7.9 billion, $485.9 million more than the request. Funding for the Related Agencies totals $241.1 million, equal to the request.
Highlights of Military Construction and Family Housing
The $7.9 billion provided in the bill for Military Construction and Family Housing funds a range of projects to ensure military readiness and quality of life on military bases within the United States and around the globe. Projects funded in the bill include operational, maintenance and supply facilities; hospitals and clinics; schools; and barracks and family housing. The $7.9 billion in the bill includes $172.4 million that was requested in the budget under a separate Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) title. The bulk of the OCO request, $113.6 million, is for projects related to the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI). Instead of including a separate OCO title, the Overseas Contingency Operations and European Reassurance Initiative projects are funded in the base Military Construction title. As such, there is no OCO funding in the bill.
Active component military construction: $5.2 billion to fund Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Air Force and Defense-wide military construction projects worldwide. The bill is $170 million more than the request.
Guard and Reserve component military construction: $673 million for readiness centers, training facilities and related military construction necessary for the training and administration of the Guard and reserve components. This is equal to the budget request and $122 million more than the fiscal year 2016 enacted level.
Unfunded military construction priorities: $515 million for the top military construction priorities for the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, Air Force, Special Operations Command, Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Army Reserve, and Army Family Housing Construction as identified in the services’ fiscal year 2017 Unfunded Requirements List. All projects require authorization in the National Defense Authorization Act.
Energy Conservation Investment Program (ECIP): $150 million as requested. The Defense Department (DOD) is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, accounting for approximately 80 percent of the total energy consumption. ECIP provides funding to improve energy efficiency, reduce energy consumption, and invest in renewable energy projects and energy security at DOD’s facilities and installations.
Military Family Housing: $1.3 billion for family housing construction and improvements, equal to the budget request. These resources will continue to provide quality housing for the nearly 1.4 million military families currently served by the program.
Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC): $205 million for the Department of Defense Base Closure Fund, equal to the requested level.
NATO Security Investment Program (NSIP): $178 million to fund the U.S. share of joint U.S.-NATO military facilities. This is equal to the requested level, and $43 million more than the fiscal year 2016 enacted level.
Department of Veterans Affairs
The bill includes $177.4 billion in total discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2017. This includes $102.5 billion in mandatory funding and $74.86 billion in discretionary funding.
Fiscal Year 2018 Advance Appropriations: The bill includes $66.4 billion in fiscal year 2018 advance funding for VA medical care, and $103.9 billion in fiscal year 2018 advance funding for VA’s mandatory benefits programs.
Medical Programs: The Veterans Health Administration, including its research programs, is funded at $65.5 billion, $3.75 billion more than fiscal year 2016. Within this funding, major highlights include:
- Female Veterans.—$5.3 billion in total healthcare for the more than 500,000 female veterans who use the VA health system. This includes $535 million for gender specific healthcare. In addition, the bill includes language mandating that VA research and purchase prosthetic devices developed specifically for female veterans. Further, the VA is directed to provide to the Committee the specific funding amounts allocated by the Department for female prosthetics.
- Caregivers.—An additional $10 million to the request for the Caregivers program, bringing total funding to $735 million. This is $110 million more than the enacted level for fiscal year 2016. The additional funding is to support stipends paid directly to family caregivers of post-9/11 veterans seriously injured in the line of duty, as well as the national caregiver support line and increased support for caregiver support coordinators.
- Homeless Programs.—Provides $1.6 billion for VA’s homeless programs. This includes increases to the requested level for the Grant and Per Diem program and the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program of $10 million and $20 million, respectively. Additional funding in the bill is also available for increases for the Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program should the Department of Housing and Urban Development issue new vouchers in fiscal year 2017.
- Mental Health.—$7.8 billion for mental health services at VA. This includes $370 million for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, $567 million for substance abuse treatment and $164 million for suicide prevention outreach. In addition, the bill directs that not less than $19 million be used to support the National Centers for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Rural Health.—$250 million for the Rural Health Initiative. The Office of Rural Health works to optimize the use of available and emerging technologies, establish new access points to care, and employ strategies to increase healthcare options for all rural veterans. The Office of Rural Health identifies and implements initiatives that support rural clinics and rural home-based primary care, address barriers to access and quality of healthcare delivery in rural areas, develop workforce recruitment and retention initiatives, and accelerate and expand telehealth.
- Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans.—The bill includes full funding of $5.7 billion to treat the almost 923,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who seek care through the VA.
- Telehealth.—Full funding of $1.17 billion is provided for telehealth services. In 2017, the Department will provide telehealth services to more than 760,000 veterans and continue to focus on increasing access to underserved rural populations.
- Traumatic Brain Injury.—$284 million in care for veterans suffering traumatic brain injury or other polytraumatic injuries.
- Long Term Care.—$8.6 billion for institutional and non-institutional long-term services and support. As Vietnam-era veterans age, VA must continue to make significant investment in adult day care, home-based care and traditional institutional care to ensure that the needs of aging veterans are met.
- Medical and Prosthetic Research.—The bill includes $675 million, $44.6 million more than fiscal year 2016 and $12 million more than requested, for medical and prosthetic research. This level of funding, coupled with support from the medical care accounts, non-federal resources and other federal resources, will provide an estimated $1.9 billion for veteran-related research activities. To ensure that prosthetic and other medical research is conducted in a manner to guarantee that female veterans’ needs are taken into account, the bill directs that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs ensure that sufficient funding is utilized for gender appropriate research.
- Hepatitis-C Treatments. — $1.5 billion for groundbreaking new Hepatitis-C treatments, more than $840 million above what the VA originally budgeted for in the fiscal year 2017 advance appropriation. With cure rates reaching almost 95 percent and a known population of over 170,000 veterans who have the virus, this additional investment will allow the VA to move aggressively to treat an increased number of veterans.
Claims Processing: The fiscal year 2017 bill includes $2.86 billion for claims processing, $148 million more than last year’s level of $2.71 billion and $30 million more than the request. This level of funding will provide support for an additional 300 new employees, focused on non-rating appellate work. In addition, the recommendation includes $156 million for the Board of Veterans Appeals, an increase of $46 million (42 percent) above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level of $110 million. This will increase the Board’s workforce by more than 240 people.
To continue greater national and regional progress in reducing VA claims backlogs and to maintain proper oversight, the bill maintains strict reporting requirements, including reports on performance measures for each Regional Office, quarterly status reports on training and corrective actions taken, and a future staffing level plan for each Regional Office.
Information Technology (IT): The bill provides the full budget request of $4.28 billion to modernize and sustain VA’s information technology systems. This includes $370 million to strengthen information and cybersecurity, $260 million to modernize the VistA electronic health record and $143 million for the Veterans Benefits Management System electronic claims processing system.
The bill continues to include language restricting the use of 75 percent of the VistA modernization effort until the VA demonstrates functional improvements in the interoperability of a system to seamlessly exchange veterans’ medical data among the VA, DoD and private sector.
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC): $75.1 million, equal to the request, for ABMC’s cemeteries and memorials overseas.
U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims: $30.9 million for the Court, equal to the request. The Court is an independent agency established to review decisions by the Veterans Board of Appeals.
Arlington National Cemetery (ANC): $70.8 million, equal to the request.
Armed Forces Retirement Home (AFRH): $64.3 million, equal to the request for the operation of the retirement homes in Washington, D.C. and Gulfport, Mississippi.
Mara Stark-Alcalá w/Appropriations: (202) 224-2667
Marnee Banks w/Tester
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