House lawmakers this week approved plans for a $ 270 billion veterans budget next year as part of a larger set of supply bills, leaving the possibility of the department open. can finalize its spending plans for fiscal 2022 in early fall.
The budget measure, which totals more than $ 770 billion and would fund other agencies such as the education and treasury departments, adopted party lines, 219-208.
Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. and chair of the House Appropriations Committee panel on veterans issues, hailed the funding plan as including “substantial investments in women’s and mental health, suicide prevention, homelessness, health rural development, opioid abuse prevention, and more ”.
Republicans offered little resistance to VA’s fundraising plan in particular, but opposed the broader budget proposals of President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats because they are too expensive.
Yet the passage of the VA plan opens up the possibility for lawmakers to approve a final deal on next year’s VA budget by October 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Finalizing the budgets of these agencies before that date has been a rarity in Congress in recent years, forcing lawmakers to adopt short-term interim measures to avoid partial government shutdowns.
Senate appropriators are expected to vote on their first VA spending bill on Monday, with a view to a full chamber vote in September. This could give lawmakers a few weeks to approve budgets for VA and several other agencies by October 1.
Agency executives have complained in recent years that short-term funding extensions create problems for starting new programs and adjusting spending for operations.
But VA executives are largely immune from this problem, as Congress has approved advance funding for the department over the past decade to minimize the impact of Capitol Hill funding deadlocks on care. medical and VA benefits delivery.
Last year, as part of the FY2021 budget deal, Congress approved approximately $ 240 billion in funding for the department for FY2022, money that will be available even if a budget deal. complete is concluded.
The $ 270 billion budget plan would be the largest in the history of the department and would mark another substantial increase in VA funding.
In fiscal year 2001, the VA budget was approximately $ 45 billion. In fiscal 2011, it was about $ 125 billion, almost triple that total. Ten years later, in 2021, the ministry’s budget was again nearly double, at $ 245 billion.
The 2022 tax plan calls for a 13.5% increase in spending on mental health care (to $ 10.7 billion), a 14.5% increase in assistance to veterans facing homelessness (2 , $ 6 billion) and a 12% increase in care and support for gender-specific programs (over $ 700 million).
During the debate this week. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif., Has successfully lobbied to re-authorize $ 45 million in support of the Veterans Employment Education Course Program through technology ( VET TEC) next year.
The courses, launched in 2019 as a five-year pilot program, have proven to be more popular than expected in recent years, with nearly 14,000 applications and 3,000 enrolled this year alone. VA leaders have asked for more funding to expand the program in the years to come.
Lawmakers also transferred $ 1 million in planned funding to create a new recruiting program urging military medics leaving active duty to join VA health care teams.
The spending package includes $ 10.9 billion in military construction spending plans for fiscal year 2022, with a large increase in funding ($ 213 million) for the planning and design of future development centers of the ‘child.
The rest of the defense ministry’s budget remains blocked in the chamber. Earlier this month, House owners approved more than $ 700 billion in funding for the military, in line with White House requests for next year.
But Republicans called the figure too low to adequately respond to global threats, while some progressive Democrats called the figure too high given the department’s sharp spending increases in recent years.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on policies relating to military personnel and veterans. His work has earned him numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.