April 29, 2015
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers today gave the following floor statement in support of H.R. 2029, the FY 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill:
"Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 2029, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2016.
"This is the first bill of the process, and I am pleased that we are off to such an early start – the earliest start since 1974, continuing our good work from last year. I am optimistic that we will have a successful appropriations year – finishing on time and under regular order.
"We are beginning the year on the right foot – with a bipartisan bill that I believe we can all get behind.
"The FY 2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill provides $76.6 billion in discretionary funding for important veterans benefits and services, and for the infrastructure that supports the brave men and women serving in our Armed Forces and their families.
"This is a total of $4.6 billion above last year – a demonstration of our commitment to our warfighters, our veterans, and their loved ones, who have sacrificed so much to protect this great nation.
"Within this total, the bill includes $7.7 billion for the Department of Defense’s construction projects in the U.S. and around the world, which provide our servicemembers with the infrastructure they need to remain at the ready.
"The legislation also provides a total of $68.7 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. This represents a 5.6 percent increase over last year to guarantee the VA has the resources they need to care for every single qualified veteran – including meeting growing health care needs.
"To that end, VA medical services are funded at $3.8 billion above the FY 2015 level. This funding will treat 6.9 million eligible patients, providing mental health care, helping prevent suicide, and supporting research into prosthetics and traumatic brain injuries, among numerous other health initiatives.
"However, it is critical that we make sure that VA is being responsible with these taxpayer dollars. It is clear that the VA is facing some considerable management challenges, and so this bill provides the oversight that will hold the Department accountable for its mistakes, and takes the necessary steps to address and correct these problems.
"For instance, the bill keeps a close eye on how the VA is spending its construction dollars by requiring reports on construction costs, savings, and changes in scope.
"The bill also helps ensure our veterans are receiving top-notch medical care, and that the electronic health record system that serves the VA is up-to-date, and works seamlessly with the Department of Defense.
"And the bill addresses the ongoing concern of the VA claims backlog, boosting funding for claims processing, increasing support staff, and tracking the VA’s progress.
"All said, this bill goes above and beyond to ensure proper and timely benefits for our veterans, and to show our support for the men and women of our military.
"I want to thank Chairman Dent, Ranking Member Bishop, and the entire subcommittee for the hard work that resulted in this fine piece of legislation. In particular, I went to congratulate Chairman Dent for a very successful first bill at the helm of the subcommittee.
"I also want to thank the staff, including the new clerk, Maureen Hollohan, for their hard work in bringing this bill to the floor.
"I am proud to support this bipartisan bill today, and I urge my colleagues to do the same. Thank you, and I yield back."