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Veterans Service Organizations Concerned About Omnibus Appropriations Bill

Groups Call for Advance Appropriations for All VA Accounts

 WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, the co-authors of The Independent Budget—AMVETS, DAV, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Veterans of Foreign Wars—expressed concern with the funding provided for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the FY 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill being considered in the House and Senate. The omnibus bill provides funding levels for FY 2014 and advance appropriations for VA medical care accounts for FY 2015 that virtually mirror the recommendations of the Administration made in April 2013.

“Unfortunately, this budget agreement contains the same inadequate funding levels proposed by the Administration for infrastructure and medical and prosthetic research. Congress needs to dramatically increase annual appropriations required to repair, renovate and replace essential VA medical facilities as well as boost funding for life-saving and life-changing biomedical research programs.”

AMVETS National Commander John Mitchell expressed the organization’s disappointment with the Omnibus bill: “It is very disappointing that we are fully three months into the new fiscal year and critical funding needed to maintain services in the VA has yet to be provided.”

While the veterans organizations doubt that the funding levels for medical care for FY 2014 and the advance appropriations for FY 2015 are sufficient to meet the continually growing demand on the VA, they expressed serious concerns with the reduction of funding particularly for Major Construction, as well as similar cuts in Medical Facilities. The Omnibus bill provides only $342 million for Major Construction, nearly $800 million less than what The Independent Budget for FY 2014 recommends, and billions less than the true need for construction funding. Additionally, the bill would slash funding for Medical Facilities, reducing that account by nearly $500 million.

DAV National Commander Joseph W. Johnston urged the following: “Unfortunately, this budget agreement contains the same inadequate funding levels proposed by the Administration for infrastructure and medical and prosthetic research. Congress needs to dramatically increase annual appropriations required to repair, renovate and replace essential VA medical facilities as well as boost funding for life-saving and life-changing biomedical research programs.”

While the veterans groups appreciate the modest increases provide Medical Services and the Veterans Benefits Administration, as well as Information Technology, they emphasized that more must be done. Specifically, the organizations have called for passage of legislation in the House and Senate (H.R. 813 and S. 932, respectively) that would make all of the accounts of the VA advance appropriations. Currently, only the medical care accounts are funded through advance appropriations.

Paralyzed Veterans’ National President Bill Lawson stated the following: “The last couple of years have clearly shown the benefits to the VA of having the health care system funded by advance appropriations. The VA health care system has been shielded from the severe negative consequences of political gridlock that ultimately led to a partial government shutdown last fall. It is time that the rest of the VA is afforded the same protection.”

The organizations will release the 28th edition of The Independent Budget—a comprehensive budget and policy document written by veterans for veterans—in February 2014. The document will once again call for sufficient, timely and predictable funding to be provided for all VA programs. Additionally, it will emphasize the need to end the partisan warfare that has jeopardized the health care and benefits of the men and women who have served and sacrificed for this country.

VFW National Commander William A. Thien expressed the following: “Our organizations and the millions of veterans we represent will no longer tolerate Congress leveraging veterans’ health and wellbeing to achieve unrelated political ends. It is time for Congress to put the interests of veterans and their families ahead of their own.” 

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