VA to get its biggest budget ever

Matt Saintsing
September 13, 2018 - 12:19 pm

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is set to receive its largest budget ever despite lacking long-term funding for the VA MISSION Act.

The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a VA spending measure that provides more than $200 billion for the Department in 2019. It now heads to the White House for President Trump's signature as the Senate passed the bill a day before. 

Republicans touted the agreement as a solid win.

“Under this bipartisan agreement, VA is set to receive the largest dollar amount in history. Additionally, VA will receive the funding needed for implementation of the VA MISSION Act while adhering to the existing and necessary caps on federal spending,” said House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.). “The funds would responsibly allow veterans to have the options for care they deserve while also maintaining our strong investment in VA."

But that agreement does not provide adequate advance funding for 2020 and falls at least $8 billion short of what VA said it needed to fully implement the VA MISSION ACT, a sweeping bill that collapses the agency’s multiple community care programs into one.

READ MORE: Here’s what the VA Mission Act means for veterans

Still, veterans organizations hope to see the agreement signed into law before the beginning of the new fiscal year.  

“It is imperative that the House and Senate pass, and the President enact, this conference agreement to ensure that VA has a full year FY 2019 appropriation in place before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1st,” Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) said in a joint statement.

The bill provides nearly $209 billion for the VA, which includes $8.6 billion for mental health—206 million of which are reserved for suicide prevention programs. It also sets aside $780 million for prosthetic research, provides $400 million for the agency’s Opioid Safety initiative, and includes $1.8 billion to help alleviate veteran homelessness.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) estimates that fully implementing the Mission Act would create a massive $1.6 billion gap in 2019 to pay for private care for veterans. President Donald Trump’s administration has called on Congress not to bust through their spending caps to fund the law.

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