Newsbytes March 22, 2024

In this issue: Another Budget Deadline Approaches FY 2025 Budget Submitted VA Will Consolidate Direct Deposits HUD and VA to Help Homeless Veterans Find Permanent Housing VA Processed More than One Million Benefit Claims in FY 2024

Another Budget Deadline Approaches As Newsbytes goes to press, the House has released an agreed-to six-bill appropriations package to complete funding of the government for FY 2024. Congress earlier approved a “minibus” appropriations bill that includes six of the 12 appropriations bills, including the Military Construction and Department of Veterans Affairs spending bill for FY 2024. Congress still needs to pass the remaining six other appropriations bills for FY 2024 on or before March 22, 2024. The pending legislation includes funding for the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. It is unclear if Congress can pass and the President can sign into law before the March 22 deadline.

In the event of a shutdown, military retirees will continue to be paid and receive their TRICARE benefits because funding for these benefits is not required to be appropriated by Congress. Social Security and Medicare will also continue to operate. Those receiving veterans’ benefits will also continue to receive them because the VA funding has been passed. However, during a government shutdown, active-duty uniform service members will not be paid until Congress passes a budget or Continuing Resolution. That is why the FRA is supporting the “Pay Our Troops Act” (H.R. 5641/S. 2835) sponsored by Rep. Jen Kiggins (Va.) and Sen. Dan Sullivan (Alaska) respectively. This legislation mandates that members of the Armed Forces, both reserve and active duty, will be paid during a shutdown. Also, Coast Guard, DoD civilian employees, and Defense contractors will continue to be paid. Members can weigh in on this issue at:

FY 2025 Budget Submitted Despite the fact that Congress has not completed its work on the FY 2024 budget, the Biden Administration submitted its FY 2025 budget to Congress. The proposal provides for a 9.8 percent increase in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and essentially no increase in the Department of Defense over the agreed-to spending levels for FY 2024. The proposal does not call for any TRICARE fee increases and provides for a 4.5 percent increase in active duty pay.

VA Will Consolidate Direct Deposits Veterans will no longer be able to use multiple bank accounts for different veteran benefits under new anti-fraud measures being rolled out by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This change will impact approximately 50,000 students who receive the GI Bill and other VA benefits in separate direct deposit accounts. VA is sending weekly emails and text messages to this group of veterans and beneficiaries informing them of the upcoming change and asking them to select one bank account going forward. If students do not consolidate their bank accounts by April 20, VA will continue to send payments but will designate the non-education benefit payment account as the primary bank account. Read more for details on how to choose a single bank account for direct deposit.

HUD and VA to Help Homeless Veterans Find Permanent Housing In an effort to help homeless veterans and their families find permanent housing, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awarded $14 million in HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers to 66 Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) across the country for over 1,400 vouchers.

“One veteran experiencing homelessness will always be one too many - and we will do everything in our power to ensure that veterans get the safe, stable housing they deserve,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “HUD-VASH has been one of the most effective tools in our toolkit, empowering VA and HUD to provide more housing and wraparound services to more homeless and at-risk veterans than ever before. Together, we will not rest until veteran homelessness is a thing of the past.”

The HUD-VASH program provides housing and an array of supportive services to veterans experiencing homelessness by combining rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Through this program, HUD and VA’s mission is to end homelessness by assisting veterans and their families in obtaining permanent and sustainable housing with access to high-quality health care and supportive services, and to ensure that homelessness is otherwise prevented.

Thanks to the joint efforts of HUD, VA, and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has fallen by 4 percent since early 2020, and by 52 percent since 2010. Additionally, VA and HUD partnered to permanently house more than 46,000 homeless veterans in 2023.

Currently, there are over 110,000 HUD-VASH vouchers being administered by over 700 PHAs. Since 2008, HUD has issued new HUD-VASH vouchers every year. Additionally, over 81,000 of those total vouchers are actively under lease by HUD-VASH veterans, with many additional veterans having been issued vouchers and currently searching for housing to lease.

VA Processed More than One Million Benefit Claims in FY 2024 The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that it has processed its one millionth veteran benefits claim in fiscal year 2024. VA reached this milestone on March 4 – the earliest in VA history and nearly six weeks faster than the previous all-time record (from fiscal year 2023). VA has completed almost 35 percent more claims than at this point last year. The VA is continuing to deliver more benefits, more quickly, to more veterans than ever before. Through February of this fiscal year, VA provided $69 billion in earned compensation and pension benefits to 6.5 million veterans and survivors. This milestone builds on last year’s historic pace when VA delivered record amounts of earned benefits to veterans and survivors. This increase in veteran benefits is largely due to the FRA-supported PACT Act, which has empowered VA to expand health care and benefits to millions of veterans who were exposed to toxins and other hazards while serving our country. VA has granted benefits for 60.4 percent of claims filed in 2024 — including 75.1 percent of PACT Act claims — a sharp increase in the approval rate from pre-PACT Act levels. Veterans also continue to apply for benefits at record rates, with VA receiving 4.5 percent more claims thus far in fiscal year 2024 than at this point in 2023. Since the PACT Act was enacted, veterans and their families have filed more than 3.5 million claims. As a part of reaching one million claims, VA processed 221,592 disability compensation and pension claims during January 2024 alone – making it VA’s highest single month of claims production ever, surpassing the previous monthly record of 193,411 from May 2023. VA’s top 11 best claims production months in agency history all happened in the last 12 months. VA is hiring and training new claims processors and has grown the claims processing workforce more than 50 percent since fiscal year 2021. This growth, along with new technology to assist those processors, has allowed VA to meet the historic demand for benefits precipitated by the passage of the PACT Act in 2022.


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