NewsBytes June 4, 2021     
In this issue:
Administration’s Budget Provides Big Boost to VA
HVAC Member Day Includes Concurrent Receipt
HAC-Def Discusses FY2022 Defense Budget
3 Agent Orange Presumptives Added

FY 2022 Administration’s Budget Provides Big Boost to VA
President Biden recently submitted his Administration’s budget for FY2022 that begins Oct. 1, 2022. The budget increases defense spending by 1.6 percent. The proposal does not include any new TRICARE fee increases and allows for an active duty pay increase of 2.7 percent that keeps pace with civilian pay increases. The measure increases funding for mental health and sexual assault prevention. The proposed budget reduces Navy and Marine Corps active-duty end strength by 1,600 and 2,700, respectively. “The President’s Defense Budget Request is an outline and a starting point,” emphasizes Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Administration has requested a 10 percent increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The budget provides approximately $1.4 billion, an increase of $350 million for the Caregiver Support Program. Through this program the Veterans Health Administration provides support to individuals who act as caregivers for severely disabled veterans. The 2022 budget supports the phased expansion of the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers to include all eligible veterans, no matter when they served. The original Caregiver Program was limited to veterans that were disabled after Sept. 11, 2001. 

The budget includes $2.2 billion in funding for veteran homelessness programs. Additionally, the budget includes $598 million for veteran’s suicide prevention outreach programs that address the risks for suicide, with the goal of intervening before a veteran reaches a point of crisis.

Congress wants to rapidly rush through the budgeting and appropriations process this summer, partly because Biden’s budget is coming late, even compared to previous newly elected presidents. Negotiators may rely on a stopgap funding measure (Continuing Resolution) to avoid a shutdown after the Sept. 30 deadline to enact funding for the government.

HVAC Member Day Includes Concurrent Receipt
The House Veterans Affairs Committee invited all members to come speak about their priorities for veterans. These events give lawmakers who do not sit on the committee an opportunity to officially request legislative actions. This hearing allowed 22 Representatives to come before the committee and make their case for legislation. Although concurrent receipt is not under the jurisdiction of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (Fla.) discussed the urgent need to pass concurrent receipt reform. Bilirakis introduced the “Retired Pay Restoration Act” (H.R.303) that would extend Concurrent Retirement and Disability Payments (CRDP) eligibility to retirees rated less than 50 percent disabled, and more recently introduced the “Major Richard Star Act” (H.R.1282) that expands concurrent receipt to include Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) beneficiaries who are medically retired with less than 20 years of service. Bilirakis noted he will soon file legislation to provide dental care to veterans with diabetes, through a four-year pilot program. He also added his voice to those calling for toxic exposure improvements. 

Members are strongly urged to weigh in on the concurrent receipt issue by going to the FRA Action Center.

HAC-Def Discusses FY2022 Defense Budget
The House Appropriations, Defense Subcommittee held a hearing on the FY2022 Defense appropriations. The FRA provided a letter to the Subcommittee Chairwoman Betty McCollum (Minn.) and Ranking Member Ken Calvert (Calif.) in conjunction with the hearing.  The correspondence urged the subcommittee to adequately fund the Defense Health Agency without the need to further increase TRCARE fees and to implement the Electronic Health Record (EHR). The correspondence urged HAC-Def to increase funding for military housing and Childcare Development Centers (CDC). A copy of the correspondence is available on the FRA website.   

3 Agent Orange Presumptives Added
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced three conditions will be added to the list of those presumptively associated with exposure to Agent Orange herbicide. Those conditions are bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism. This expansion is a result of FRA-supported legislation that was added to the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (P.L.116-283). Vietnam War era veterans and their survivors, who previously filed and were denied benefits for one of these three new presumptive conditions, will have their cases automatically reviewed without the need to refile a claim.

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