Authors of Annual ‘Independent Budget’ Urge the Administration and Congress to Reconsider its Recommendations
Four of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations—AMVETS (American Veterans), DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans), and Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), are expressing their concerns with the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2014, for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The groups, also authors of The Independent Budget (IB), a comprehensive budget and policy document, are urging the Administration and Congress to reconsider the recommendations outlined in the IB—which calls for $68.4 billion to sufficiently meet veterans’ health care and benefits needs. The President’s budget proposal comes in just under $2 billion short of that, proposing just $66.5 billion for VA.
While the veterans organizations were pleased to see that the Administration has increased funding for areas such as the operations of the Veterans Benefits Administration, and for Information Technology, they expressed serious concerns with the reduction of funding particularly for Major Construction, where the Administration proposed just $342 million, drastically under the $1.1 billion recommended in the IB. Also a concern is the Administration’s fiscal year 2015 advance appropriation request which is approximately $2.8 billion less than the IB recommendation of $61.6 billion.
The Independent Budget recommends $58.8 billion total for health care for FY 2014, $611 million for medical and prosthetic research, and $2.25 billion for all constructions programs.
The President’s budget proposes $54.6 billion for health care, $586 million for medical and prosthetic research, and just $799 million for all construction programs.
The groups also note that while it is not spelled out in the VA portion of the budget, the President's proposal applies the chained CPI for determining cost-of-living-adjustments for VA Compensation Benefits and Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC), as well as Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance for Social Security. The only programs exempt are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and VA Pension for low income individuals. These changes would affect millions of veterans and mean real sacrifice for those who live on fixed incomes and rely on these programs to meet basic expenses, attain quality of life and build a better future for themselves and those who depend on them.
All of the veterans groups expressed some concern with the budget’s shortcomings.
“I am deeply concerned that the President’s budget falls far short of meeting the needs of VA and the veterans it serves, especially in the area of new construction and maintenance for VA's medical facilities,” said AMVETS National Commander Cleve Geer. “I urge the President to take another look at The Independent Budget and to match the IB recommendations that will guarantee the sufficient, timely and predictable funding needed to care for our veterans.”
“The President’s budget proposal contains some positive aspects, particularly the continuing commitment to fixing VA’s broken claims process by converting to a modern, paperless IT system,” said DAV National Commander Larry A. Polzin. “While we also applaud efforts to bolster programs for women veterans, homeless veterans and mental health care, the overall direction of funding for medical services and health care infrastructure raises serious questions about whether VA will be able to meet the needs of America’s wounded heroes in the future.”
“While we are pleased that the President’s budget proposal calls for increases in some areas, we are still very concerned with the overall budget proposal,” said Bill Lawson, national president of Paralyzed Veterans of America. “Funding cuts to VA will have an enormous impact on the lives of veterans and their families, and we urge the Administration and Congress to strongly reconsider its budget proposal and fully implement the recommendations of this year’s Independent Budget.”
“The VFW is pleased that the Administration continues to make veterans’ programs a national priority and we appreciate that the President understands that our nation has a solemn obligation to care for our wounded, ill and injured veterans after they come home from war,” said John E. Hamilton, commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. “The Independent Budget partners are happy to see this year’s proposed increases in funding for veterans’ programs, but we remain concerned that VA will not be able to adequately improve on their services to veterans without properly investing in major infrastructure improvements. VA must have efficient facilities in order to provide a continuum of quality care.”
In its 27th year, The Independent Budget is an annual comprehensive budget and policy document, written by veterans for veterans detailing funding requirements for VA. The Independent Budget aims to present a full picture of veterans’ needs—and how government can meet these needs.
The full recommendations of The Independent Budget can be viewed at this link.