House Passes MilCon/VA Spending Bill
The House recently passed the Military Construction and Department of Veterans Affairs (MilCon/VA) FY 2013 spending bill (H.R. 5854), which authorizes $71.7 billion in discretionary spending, $573 million below the Administration’s request. The overall funding remains the same as the current fiscal year, but VA appropriations will increase by $2.4 billion, or by 10.8 percent. Funding for military construction projects will be reduced by that amount, for a total of $10.6 billion. The measure also includes $54.5 billion in advanced appropriations for VA health care in FY 2014.
The spending bill would withhold funding for the integration of Department of Defense (DoD) and VA health records until the two departments implement recommendations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on how to improve the program. Related to this, the VA is rapidly approaching a backlog of one million unprocessed disability claims and FRA supports use of new technology to help reform the antiquated Veterans’ Benefits Administration (VBA) paper claims system to reduce and eventually eliminate that backlog. The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.