Largest VA Budget Proposal Passes House

Largest House VA Budget Proposal

Largest VA Budget Proposal Passes House

On July 24th, legislation providing appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs (HR 7608) passed the House with a contentious vote of 224 in favor and 189 opposed to the legislation. What is remarkable about this bill is that it was only introduced 11 days before it was approved, which does not happen often. The bill has been forwarded to the Senate, and as of July 30th was referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

What’s in the VA Appropriations Bill?

  • $4.91 billion for Information Technology Systems
  • $2.81 billion for VA Compensations and Pensions
  • $2.62 billion to continue upgrades of the Veterans Electronic Health Record system
  • $1.38 billion for Medical Community Care
  • $2.15 million for Veterans Insurance and Indemnities
  • $840 million for Medical and Prosthetic Research
  • $355.9 million for General Administration, which could be transferred to “General Operating Expenses”
  • $349 million for the National Cemetery Association
  • $228 million for the Office of the Inspector General, up $1.3 million
  • $198 million to the Board of Veterans Appeals
  • $84.1 million for the American Battle Monuments Commission
  • $81.8 million for Arlington National Cemetery
  • $73.1 million for the Armed Forces Retirement Home
  • $1.18 million for the Native American Veteran Housing Loan Program

 

These are most of the proposed budgetary measures in HR 7608 that pertain to the VA. If enacted, these measures would go into effect for the next fiscal year starting on October 1st, 2020.

In addition, the bill includes numerous proposals related to military construction and family housing construction for each of the armed forces. That money should translate into improvements for housing on military installations across the country and around the world. 

A Contentious Bill

Of the 189 in opposition to this bill, 181 of them were Republicans. Seven Democrats also stood in opposition to HR 7608, of those being Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Omar (D-MN). 

Representative Kay Granger (R-KY) primarily opposes the legislation because it exceeds the spending level Congress and the President agreed upon last year. In her statement on the House floor, Granger said, that “[p]rovisions are included that would permanently prevent any administration from implementing reforms to programs that help lift needy Americans out of poverty.” 

She also argued against the procedure for pushing last minute additions that were not brought to the floor for debate: “Even though the Appropriations Committee has held more than 100 hearings and briefings this year, these proposals were never formally considered, and there were no discussions with Members on our side of the aisle.”

Other reasons for Rep. Granger’s opposition includes measure of the bill that reduce America’s energy independence, United Nations funding, and using American tax dollars to fund overseas abortions.

Representative Roe (R-TN) also stood in opposition to the bill, also for its irresponsible approach to federal spending and approved caps.

“This package is also loaded with wildly reckless spending, including labelling $37.5 billion as ‘emergency spending’ to skirt the budget caps signed into law last year,” he declared the day following its approval. “This appropriations package was loaded with partisan poison pills, leaving me with no choice but to strongly oppose it.”

The legislation is unlikely to succeed in the Senate, since Republicans largely oppose the extra measures that have little to do with supporting veterans. There are other related bills on the calendar, all of which were added around the same time as HR 7608. 

Let’s hope our congressional leaders can come together and debate these issues and come to some agreement. 

(Image courtesy of Mehmet Doganay via 123rf.com)

 

 

About the author

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Robert Haynes is a retired Army infantryman who has a squad of kids and is married to an active duty Soldier. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, who spent his last few years in the Army as a Drill Sergeant. He is now a full-time dad, freelance writer, and out-of-work comedian.