Veterans service organizations issue Independent Budget recommendations for the Department of Veterans Affairs
Today, in advance of the President’s budget, DAV, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars released The Independent Budget Recommendations for Fiscal Years (FY) 2021 and 2022 Advance Appropriations providing a roadmap to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is fully-funded and capable of carrying out its mission to serve veterans and their families, both now and in the future. For over 30 years, the three partnering organizations (the IBVSOs) have co-authored The Independent Budget, offering substantive solutions and policy recommendations to properly fund the VA to ensure the delivery of timely, quality health care as well as appropriate earned benefits for the men and women who served.
For fiscal year 2021, The IB is recommending $98.4 billion in total medical care funding to meet the full demand for care both within VA health care facilities, as well as through the new Community Care Networks established by the VA MISSION Act. The IB recommends a $328 million increase for prosthetics and sensory aids; $590 million to improve gender-specific health care and services for women veterans; $20 million in reproductive services for service-connected catastrophically disabled veterans; and $776 million to begin closing the gap in clinical vacancies across the Veterans Health Administration.
For the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), the IBVSOs recommend a total of $3.23 billion for FY 2021—an increase of roughly $101 million over FY 2020—and $218 million for the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA)—an increase of approximately $36 million above the current fiscal year. The IB recommendations include additional information technology (IT) funding for both VBA and BVA to modernize their IT infrastructure and streamline the delivery of benefits to more than 4 million disabled veterans and their survivors.
The IBVSOs believe the VA’s unfinished infrastructure projects and those that present a safety risk to veterans and employees should be put on a course to completion within the next five years. To accomplish this, The IB recommends Congress appropriate $1.7 billion for FY 2021 to fund either the next phase or completion of all existing construction projects, and begin advance planning and design development on all of the VA’s highest-priority major construction projects.
“The Independent Budget reflects an earnest need to fund the growing demand for health care and benefits for the nation’s veterans,” said the IBVSOs. “The VA has fared better historically than most federal agencies in budget proposals and appropriations, but continued funding shortages have led to serious access barriers and unacceptable delays in benefits delivery. The VA budget must remain a high priority, and Congress must work to do the right thing for veterans, ensuring the funding adequately matches the demand for the VA’s benefits and services.”
Later this month, the IBVSOs plan to release a Special Report on the Status of Implementation of the VA MISSION Act, an interim evaluation of the progress of this historic legislation. One year ago, The IB’s Veterans Agenda Report designated only one critical issue for the 116th Congress—the full and faithful implementation of the VA MISSION Act—offering 26 recommendations for implementing the law in areas the IBVSOs believed warranted special focus and attention. The upcoming IB Special Report will provide updates on the status of each of those recommendations—some which are in progress, some which have not yet begun and others which have already been rejected or ignored by VA or Congress—now that eight months have passed since the VA MISSION Act became the law of the land.
Article Credit: Paralyzed Veterans of America