Chair Wasserman Schultz Statement to Rules Committee on Six-Bill Appropriations Minibus

2022-07-18 14:16

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Chair Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23) today delivered the following remarks to the House Rules Committee in support of an appropriate rule for the House to consider H.R. 8294, a minibus of six fiscal year 2023 appropriations bills:

Mr. Chairman, thank you for having me here today to discuss the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies division of H.R. 8294.

I am so proud of the bill we have put together to continue our unending commitment to serve those who serve us.

With $150.5 billion in discretionary funding, $23 billion above the FY 2022 enacted funding level and $2.9 billion above the FY 2023 budget request, we are meeting the full range of needs of our servicemembers and their families, and our veterans.

That includes $15.1 billion for Military Construction, $118.8 billion for VA Medical Care, and $16.6 billion for nondefense discretionary programs.

Notably, consistent with the Biden budget request this year, VA Medical Care is considered separate from other discretionary funding items to help ensure the cost of treating those who served our country does not come at the expense of other needs.

We need to be investing in health care for our veterans, but not sacrificing other programs throughout the government that veterans and others rely on to do so. This change will make sure that veterans’ full needs can be funded in an equitable and responsible way.

I also want to say how proud I am that our bill fulfills the vast majority of the requests we received from Members on both sides of the aisle. It reflects bipartisan priorities, and I would hope it would get bipartisan support on the Floor.

I’d like to take this opportunity to mention some of the highlights of the bill.

As part of the Military Construction title, the bill fully funds active and reserve construction, including the majority of members’ community project funding requests.

There is also $2.1 billion for Family Housing Construction in this bill, including $30 million for additional oversight of the privatized housing providers.

This funding will not only expand inspections that check for unacceptable living conditions, but will also increase oversight of the private housing providers that have ignored the needs of servicemembers and their families, and in some cases been guilty of fraudulent activities.

We are firmly committed to addressing the unacceptable conditions and neglect that have persisted in military family housing for far too long.

To protect our environment and address climate change, it supports needed military projects, as well as invests in energy resilience on our military bases, provides $200 million for PFAS cleanup at contaminated installations, and provides $135 million as a set-aside to fund climate change and resiliency projects.

The bill also includes $274 million to construct 8 new Child Development Centers, which includes funding for planning and design of future centers so we can maintain our pace of constructing new centers every year and provide this much-needed support to military families.

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, the bill provides the funding needed for our veterans to receive the medical treatment and benefits they have earned.

It fully funds the budget request for Medical Care, including an additional $66 million above the request for members’ priorities and high priority programs that support the range of targeted medical services that benefit veterans.

We invest a historic amount of $911 million, $10 million over the budget request, for gender-specific care and programmatic efforts for women – the fastest growing cohort of veterans and one that requires health care services designed specifically for their needs.

We provide $13.9 billion in mental healthcare services, including $498 million for suicide prevention outreach, to help combat the crisis of veteran suicide.

The bill also provides VA the tools it needs to continue fighting veteran homelessness with $2.7 billion for homelessness programs.

We also make groundbreaking investments in Substance Use Disorder programs and opioid abuse treatment and prevention, as well as in whole health programs that incorporate complementary and integrative medicine into care and address the veteran as a whole, not just one physical ailment at a time. 

The bill also boosts VA investment in medical and prosthetic research, an area of bipartisan member interest, bringing the total to $926 million. This funding will allow VA to focus on areas with tremendous impact on veterans, including toxic exposures, mental health, and precision oncology.

Other notable aspects of the bill include robust oversight of the electronic health record modernization effort to ensure this program’s successful implementation, continued investment in VA’s construction programs, and increased funding to help bring down the claims backlog that delays access to disability compensation for too many veterans.

Finally, the bill includes funding for the four Related Agencies that support our servicemembers and veterans, including funding to complete construction of Arlington National Cemetery’s much-needed Southern Expansion project.

This bill invests in the programs that improve our military readiness and honor the veterans who have given so much through their service to our nation.

I look forward to seeing a rule that will enable this important measure to move forward on the floor.

117th Congress