On April 10, 2013, the Administration finally released its Budget Request for FY 2014. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) budget also included advanced appropriations recommendations for FY 2015.
The co-authors of The Independent Budget—AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans), and Veterans of Foreign Wars—generally expressed disappointment with the funding recommendations. Specifically, we believe the health care (particularly the advance appropriations for FY 2015), research, and construction accounts of the Administration’s FY 2014 Budget Request are not sufficient.
The House and Senate Committees on Veterans’ Affairs both conducted hearings on the FY 2014 VA Budget in the days following the release of the Administration’s budget. During the hearings, we expressed serious concerns in testimony and on the record with the VA’s recommendations. Specifically, the VA recommends $58.8 billion overall for medical care for the FY 2015 advance appropriation (including nearly $3.1 billion for medical care collections). This represents only a $1.1 billion increase from the FY 2014 appropriation that was just recently enacted. This also is approximately $2.8 billion less that the FY 2015 recommendations from The Independent Budget. We do not believe that this amount is sufficient to allow for increases in current services based on inflation (approximately 3.0 percent for general medical care) and still provide timely, quality health care to all the new veterans that the VA expects to see in FY 2015.
The Independent Budget also has serious concerns with the VA’s handling of its collections estimates. We believe that the VA continues to overproject and underperform on its medical care collections estimates. For example, the VA originally projected $2.966 billion in medical care collections for FY 2013. However, that amount was revised downward to $2.841 billion. Unfortunately, no new appropriations have been provided to address that fact. Moreover, we do not believe their track record suggests that they can meet those projections. Similarly, we expressed concerns with proposed savings and operational improvements included in the FY 2014 and FY 2015 budget recommendations. While the VA has often claimed billions of dollars in management improvements, it often fails to achieve those goals leaving the health care system short of needed operational funds.
For medical and prosthetic research, The Independent Budget recommended $611 million in FY 2014, approximately $25 million more than the Administration’s FY 2014 recommendation. Unfortunately, the Administration now for the fourth year in a row has requested essentially flat funding for VA research, and Congress has effectively acquiesced. From FY 2011 through the FY 2013 appropriation, virtually nothing was added by Congress to that program’s budget baseline.
We also have significant concerns with the woeful level of funding requested for construction and infrastructure spending, particularly with regards to Major Construction and Non-Recurring Maintenance (NRM). The Administration requested nearly $1.0 billion less than The Independent Budget for Major and Minor Construction. Given the aging and deficient nature of the VA’s infrastructure, this level of funding is simply unacceptable.
Paralyzed Veterans, along with the co-authors of The Independent Budget, will now become actively involved in the appropriations process, as the House and Senate have already approved Budget Resolutions. We will continue to keep Paralyzed Veterans members updated on the status of these efforts. In the meantime, we hope all Paralyzed Veterans members will engage with their congressional offices to ensure that sufficient funding to meet the health care and benefits needs of veterans is provided.
Learn more about Paralyzed Veterans of America's efforts on Capitol Hill