CONGRESSMAN BISHOP STATEMENT ON PASSAGE OF FY 2015 MILCON/VA APPROPRIATIONS BILL
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, issued the following statement regarding the passage of H.R.4486, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies 2015 government spending bill. H.R. 4486 passed 416 to 1 and now goes on to the Senate for debate.
“Today, the House of Representatives put aside its differences and came together to strengthen the well-being of our military, our veterans, and the families who sacrifice so much to defend our country.”
“Reaching across the aisle, we have crafted a bill that will address the funding needs for military construction and family housing for our troops and their families as well as other quality of life construction projects. A true bipartisan effort, I am pleased that our bill provides $6.5 billion in military construction for military family housing, medical facilities, NATO, chemical demilitarization construction, as well as for Guard and Reserve facilities around the country.
“Additionally, it will provide $158.2 billion for the Veterans Administration, assuring that all areas of administrative expenses, research, medical care, information technology, and facilities will be adequately funded, allowing our Veterans to receive the highest quality of care. All told, the bill before us today touches every soldier, sailor, Marine, airman as well as military families and veterans that participate in VA programs.
“Specifically regarding the issue of the veteran’s clams backlog, though the VA has made significant progress, the fact that there are still over 300,000 cases currently in backlog means it’s still a major national issue. While I continue to be frustrated with the backlog itself, I am hopeful that the additional $20 million in additional funding to the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) for the digital scanning of health and benefits files will reinforce the $173.3 million already allocated to the Veterans Benefits Management System, helping the VA reach its goal to end the claims backlog in 2015.”
In his capacity as the Ranking Member, Congressman Bishop has worked with Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) to usher this traditionally bipartisan bill through the legislative process, continuing the ongoing commitment to our nation’s service members, veterans, and their families without compromising on necessary resources for services, benefits, and construction. In addition to determining funding levels for Veterans Affairs, this bill has regularly funded construction activity at Fort Benning, Robins Air Force Base, and the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. The FY 2015 MilCon/VA spending bill is the first appropriations bill to be considered by the House of Representatives during the 2014 appropriations season.
Below is a list of highlights of funding levels and other key provisions in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Bill:
For more information regarding the FY 2015 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Mark-Up, please click here.
The bill totals $71.499 billion – $1.8 billion below the fiscal year 2014 level and $397 million below the President’s budget request. The decrease is primarily due to declining need for new military construction projects.
2014 Enacted: $73.299 billion
President's Request: $71.897 billion
Committee Mark: $71.499 billion
MILCON/VA IN GEORGIA:
- $7.692 million for Hunter Army Airfield’s SOF Company Operations Facility;
- $19.9 million for Robins Air Force Base to replace a Hydrant Fuel System;
Air Force Reserve
- $27.7 million to Robins Air Force Base and Phase 1 of AFRC Consolidated Mission Complex;
The bill provides a total of $6.557 billion for military construction projects – a decrease of $3.3 billion below the enacted fiscal year 2014 level, and the same as the President’s request. The funding provided will be used for large and small construction and renovation projects on military bases within the U.S. and around the globe.
Military Family Housing –The bill provides $1.190 billion to fund construction, operation and maintenance of military family housing for fiscal year 2015. This is $325 million below the fiscal year 2014 level, due to savings from the privatization of family housing, a reduced need for new facilities, and no construction funding requests by the Air Force. The funding provided will ensure quality housing is continued for all 1,231,044 military families currently served by the program.
Military Medical Facilities – The bill includes $485.9 million for construction and alterations for new or existing military medical facilities. This funding will allow for continued support and care for 9.8 million eligible beneficiaries, including our wounded troops abroad.
Department of Defense (DOD) Education Facilities –The bill includes $394 million for essential safety improvements and infrastructure work at seven DOD Education Activities facilities located within the U.S. and overseas.
Guard and Reserve – The bill includes $426.5 million for construction or alteration of Guard and Reserve facilities in 17 states.
Veterans Affairs (VA):
The legislation includes a total of $158.21 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, an increase of $10.3 billion above the fiscal year 2014 level. This funding will help provide our nation’s veterans with the services and care they have earned from their dedicated service to the country. Discretionary funding alone for Veterans programs in the bill is $64.7 billion. Approximately $55.6 billion of this discretionary total was provided last year via advance funding in the fiscal year 2014 Appropriations bill.
VA Medical Services –The bill funds VA medical services at $45 billion – providing for approximately 6.7 million patients to be treated in fiscal year 2015. Within this total, funding includes: $7.2 billion in mental health care services; $133 million in suicide prevention activities; $229 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $7.4 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training; and $250 million in rural health initiatives.
VA Electronic Health Record – The bill contains $344 million for the modernization of the Veterans Affairs electronic health record system. To help ensure our veterans get proper care through the timely and accurate exchange of medical data between VA, DOD, and the private sector, the bill includes language restricting funding until the VA demonstrates progress on the system’s functionality and interoperability. In the aftermath of the DOD and VA decision not to pursue a single integrated health record, it becomes doubly important to ensure that the two health records are designed in a way that permits interoperability between the two systems.
Disability Claims Processing Backlog – The bill provides $173.3 million for the paperless claims processing system and an increase of $20 million additional funding above the request for digital scanning of health records, centralized mail, and overtime to end the backlog in disability compensation claims by 2015. In addition, rigorous reporting requirements to track the performance of each regional office on claims processing are continued.
Construction – Major and minor construction within the VA is funded at approximately $1.057 billion. The bill does not provide funding for major new hospital construction projects, but allows the VA to continue to correct safety issues and deficiencies, and make patient care improvements at several facilities.
VA Mandatory Funding – The bill fulfills mandatory funding requirements such as: veteran disability compensation programs for 4.6 million veterans and their survivors; education benefits for more than one million veterans; and vocational rehabilitation and employment training for more than 130,000 veterans.
Oversight –The legislation includes provisions to increase oversight of taxpayer dollars at the VA, including requiring the agency to report on construction expenditures and savings, forbidding new changes in the scope of construction projects, and restricting the agency from taking certain spending actions without notifying Congress.
Advance Appropriations for Veterans Medical Programs – The bill contains $58.7 billion in advance fiscal year 2016 funding for the VA – the same level as the President’s request. This funding will provide for medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities, and ensure that our veterans have continued, full access to their medical care needs.
Arlington National Cemetery – The legislation includes $62 million for the Arlington National Cemetery, a decrease of $4 million from the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.
For more information on funding levels and other key provisions in the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs Bill, please click here.