May 14, 2013
The House Appropriations Committee today released the initial fiscal year 2014 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow.
The legislation provides the nation’s military with the infrastructure needed to house, train, and equip military personnel, supports the quality of life of our troops and their families, and maintains our military base structure. The bill also funds veterans’ benefits and programs to ensure that all veterans receive the services they have earned as a result of their sacrifices and service to the country.
The bill totals $73.3 billion in discretionary funding, which is $1.4 billion above the enacted level for fiscal year 2013, and approximately $2.4 billion* above the current level caused by automatic sequestration spending cuts, which do not affect Veterans spending. This level is nearly $1.4 billion below the President’s request for these programs.
Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers made the following statement on the legislation:
“This will be a tough budget year, and almost every area of government will be affected by the austere funding levels caused by sequestration. However, this legislation prioritizes spending to protect critical programs, including infrastructure for our troops, programs for our military families, and the quality care our nation’s veterans deserve,” Rogers said.
Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson also commented on his bill:
“Our subcommittee is committed to ensuring that our men and women in uniform are the best-equipped and best-cared-for in the world. Once again, this year, we have been able to protect the high-quality services provided to our troops, their families, and our veterans,” Chairman Culberson said.
The bill totals $73.3 billion – $1.4 billion above the enacted fiscal year 2013 level and $1.4 billion below the President’s budget request. The increase is primarily due to advance funding approved last year for veterans medical care, and an increase in veterans spending for essential benefits and programs such as those to reduce the backlog in claims processing. Some of this funding is offset by reductions in the Military Construction portion of the bill.
The bill also seeks to save taxpayer dollars wherever possible, without impacting critical programs for our military or veterans. For example, the legislation includes rescissions of unused, unobligated funding from previous years, it does not provide funding for 10 proposed military construction projects that are not needed or justified at this time, and it reduces excess or unnecessary funding for six other projects.
Military Construction – The bill provides $9.9 billion for military construction projects – a decrease of $646 million below the enacted fiscal year 2013 level. These programs include large and small construction and rehabilitation projects on military bases within the U.S. and overseas.
- Military Family Housing –The bill provides $1.5 billion to fund construction, operation and maintenance of military family housing for fiscal year 2014. This is $106 million below the enacted fiscal year 2013 level, due to savings from the privatization of family housing. The funding will ensure quality housing is continued for 1,231,044 military families whose loved ones are serving the country.
- Military Medical Facilities – The bill includes $927 million for construction and alterations for new or existing military medical facilities. These facilities support and care for 9.8 million eligible beneficiaries, including our wounded troops abroad.
- Department of Defense (DOD) Education Facilities –The bill includes $798 million for essential safety improvements and infrastructure work at 17 DOD Education Activities facilities located within the U.S. and overseas. This funding will help address health, safety, and efficiency problems at these facilities for military children and families.
- Guard and Reserve – The bill includes $676.3 million for construction or alteration of Guard and Reserve facilities in 25 States.
Veterans Affairs (VA) – The legislation includes a total of $147.6 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. This funding will help provide our nation’s veterans with the services and care they have earned from their dedicated service to the country.
Discretionary funding for Veterans programs in the bill is $63.1 billion – $2.1 billion above the enacted fiscal year 2013 level. Approximately $54.5 billion of this discretionary total was provided last year via advance funding in the fiscal year 2013 Appropriations bill.
- VA Medical Services –The bill funds VA medical services at $43.6 billion – providing for approximately 6.5 million patients to be treated in fiscal year 2014. Some of these funds include: $7.2 billion in mental health care services; $103 million in suicide prevention activities; $246 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $6.2 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training; and $250 million in rural health initiatives.
- DOD-VA Electronic Health Record – The bill contains $344 million in funding to jumpstart a single, integrated Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs electronic health record system. The legislation requires that a unified system be certified by the Secretaries of DOD and the VA, and confirmed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), before the majority of funding for the program is released.
- Disability Claims Processing Backlog – To help the VA meet its goal of ending the disability compensation claims backlog by 2015, the bill provides $155 million for the paperless claims process system and $136 million for digital scanning of health records. In addition, rigorous reporting requirements would be put into place to track the performance of each regional office on claims processing.
- Construction – Major and Minor Construction within the VA is funded at approximately $1.06 billion. The bill does not provide funding for major new hospital construction projects, but allows the VA to make progress on the hundreds of projects already scheduled, including the construction or renovation of health clinics, medical residences, and nursing homes.
- VA Mandatory Funding – The bill fulfills mandatory funding requirements such as: veteran disability compensation programs for 4.2 million veterans and their survivors; post-9-11 GI bill education benefits for more than 764,000 veterans; and vocational rehabilitation and employment training for more than 175,000 veterans.
- Oversight –The legislation includes provisions to increase oversight of taxpayer dollars at the VA, including requiring the agency to report on construction expenditures and savings, forbidding new changes in the scope of construction projects, and restricting the agency from taking certain spending actions without notifying Congress.
Advance Appropriations for Veterans Medical Programs – The bill contains $55.6 billion in advance fiscal year 2015 funding for the VA – the same level provided in the House-passed Budget Resolution. This funding will provide for medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities, and ensure that our veterans have continued, full access to their medical care needs.
Arlington National Cemetery – The legislation includes $70.7 million for the Arlington National Cemetery, a decrease of $93.9 million from the fiscal year 2013 enacted level.
For the complete text of the FY 2014 Subcommittee Draft Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, please visit: /UploadedFiles/BILLS-113HR-SC-AP-FY14-MilConVA.pdf
*Due to lack of current fiscal year 2013 information provided to Congress by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), post-sequestration funding levels are estimates only.