WASHINGTON—The President proposed a $163.9 billion FY 2015 budget for VA this week, which is a 6.5% increase over FY 2014.
The budget includes $68.4 billion in discretionary funding of which $59.1 billion is for the medical care budget, and $95.6 billion for mandatory programs.
The agency said that this funding will support its goals to “expand access to health care and other benefits, eliminate the disability claims backlog, and end homelessness among veterans.”
“This budget will allow us to continue the progress we have made in helping veterans secure their place in the middle class,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.
In response to the proposed budget, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that the budget proposal “reflects a continued commitment to ensuring that veterans receive the care and benefits they deserve,” but he said that more funding was needed to keep up with health care inflation and the enrollment of new veterans.
“It would provide the resources necessary to seriously combat veterans’ homelessness and it would continue to provide increased funding to eliminate the disability claims backlog at the VA. It is disappointing, however, that the budget doesn’t provide all of the resources necessary to keep pace with health care inflation and enroll new veterans. As chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I will be working to correct this,” he said in a written statement.
Meanwhile, AMVETS, DAV, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars said that more funding was needed to sufficiently meet the healthcare and benefit needs of veterans. The organizations coauthor an annual budget and policy document, The Independent Budget, which also recommends more funding for VA construction, among other things.
“World-class health care requires first-class facilities, but through 13 years of war, VA construction accounts have only received 57% of what’s required, and we project VA will need to invest $31 billion over the next decade to close its major and minor construction gaps,” said VFW National Commander William A. Thien in a written statement.
Among those who are exposed to combat, it’s the weapons fire that does it. In the Navy, it’s the noise levels in engine rooms and on the decks of carriers.
As the debate about increasing access for veterans to community-based provider heats up, a serious problem has emerged: Few providers outside the VA health system appear to be prepared to meet the unique challenges of the veteran population.