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

2021-07-26 16:10

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee 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. 4502, a minibus of seven fiscal year 2022 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. 4502.

I am proud of the bill we have put together to meet the needs of our servicemembers, support our military families, and provide for our Veterans. This bill highlights our continued commitment to our servicemembers and their families and to our Veterans.

The allocation of $124.5 billion in discretionary funding is $11.4 billion above the FY 2021 enacted funding level and $1.3 billion above the FY 2022 budget request.

Within that total, the bill provides $10.9 billion for Military Construction, $2.9 billion above the enacted level and $1.07 billion above the President’s budget request.

For the Department of Veterans Affairs, the bill provides a total of $113.1 billion in discretionary appropriations, an increase of $8.7 billion above the 2021 enacted level and $176.4 million above the President’s budget request.

Clearly we are making a big investment in both VA and military construction this year, and I believe this bill makes smart investments in critical projects and programs that make a real difference in the lives of servicemembers and Veterans.

One of the things I am most proud of is that our division contains 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 supports needed military projects, as well as invests in energy resilience at our military bases and provides $150 million for PFAS cleanup at contaminated installations.

The bill includes $213 million to construct 7 new Child Development Centers, which is $193 million more than the request. With 9,000 children of servicemembers on a waiting list for childcare, this investment is imperative. 

To address another important category that is critical to improving the quality of life for our men and women in uniform, $550 million in the bill is dedicated to construction of 12 new barracks. This is $237 million above the amount in the budget request.

There is also $1.4 billion for Family Housing Construction in this bill, including $116 million for housing support costs, to address issues such as mold, vermin, and lead in military family housing.

The bill also provides $100 million for Climate Change and Resiliency Projects, which is $86 million above the FY 2021 enacted level, and $100 million above the FY 2022 budget request. This is a critical issue for many installations, and we continue to make this a high priority.

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

The bill includes $97.6 billion for VA medical care – $100 million above the budget request and providing for approximately 7.1 million patients to be treated in fiscal year 2022. In particular, I am proud that it makes significant targeted investments to support gender-specific care for women, homelessness programs, opioid abuse treatment and prevention, whole health, rural health, and $13.2 billion in mental healthcare services, including $599 million for suicide prevention outreach.

The bill also boosts VA investment in medical and prosthetic research, an area of bipartisan member interest, bringing the total to $902 million.

Other areas of interest include robust oversight of the EHRM implementation, responding to the disability claims backlog through increased funding for the Board of Veterans Appeals and Veterans Benefits Administration, ensuring access and care for veterans in rural and underserved areas including telehealth, and improving treatment of conditions that disproportionately affect 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, which will create 80,000 additional burial spaces.

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