President Obama has proposed a $168.8 billion budget for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for fiscal year 2016. The budget is expected to support the VA’s current goals to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare Veterans receive through the VA healthcare system. It will also be spent on programs aimed at ending homelessness among Veterans, as well as the expansion or continuation of scores of other VA campaigns.
Included in the budget is $73.5 billion in discretionary funding, which is expected to be used primarily on healthcare initiatives. The discretionary funding limit is 7.5% higher than the fiscal 2015 amount. There is also $95.3 billion set aside for mandatory benefits programs, including disability compensation.
The breakdown of the proposed VA budget is as follows:
Major Expenditures within the Proposed VA budget are:
- $7.5 billion for mental health
- $2.8 billion for prosthetics
- $556 million for spinal cord injuries
- $232 million for traumatic brain injuries
- $243 million for readjustment counseling
- $7.5 billion for long-term care
- $1.2 billion in tele-health funding
- $446 million for health care services specifically designed for women
- $598 million for the activation of new and enhanced health care facilities
- $1.1 billion for major construction projects
- $86.6 million for improved customer service applications, namely online self-service portals and agent-assisted call center inquiries
- $5.9 million to bring two new national cemeteries into full operation, opening in 2015, and to activate one new national cemetery and one rural National Veterans Burial Ground in 2016
- $290 million to support the electronic claims processing system – the Veterans Benefits Management System (VBMS)
- $141 million for Veterans Claims Intake Program to continue conversion of paper records, such as medical records, into electronic images and data in VBMS
- $300 million for Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) to promote housing stability
- $374 million for the HUD-VASH program wherein VA provides case management services for at-risk Veterans and their families, and HUD provides permanent housing through its Housing Choice Voucher program
- $201 million in grant and per diem payments that support temporary housing provided by community-based organizations
- $266 million to administer the VA-run system of 133 national cemeteries
- $4.1 billion for information technology (IT), including investments to modernize Veterans’ electronic health records, improve Veterans’ access to benefits, and IT infrastructure
- $1.7 billion in construction, cemetery grants, and extended care grants to include nine VHA major construction projects and four gravesite expansion projects
The $168.8 billion budget may seem a bit hefty. But due to the VA’s holistic provisions of benefits and care, there are numerous programs and initiatives that require VA funding.
With approximately 9.4 million individuals enrolled, the VA manages one of the largest healthcare systems in the nation. The VA also operates the tenth largest life insurance program in the U.S., providinf monthly pensions, survivor benefits and disability compensation to over 5.2 million recipients. The VA is also responsible for more than 2 million mortgages to Veteran homeowners, and disperses education/vocational benefits to over 1.2 million Veteran students.
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Military Connection: Obama Proposes $168.8B for 2016 VA Budget: By Debbie Gregory