Alaskan Congressman Don Young today voted in favor of H.R. 4486, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, which works to boost veterans programs, streamline services, reduce the veteran backlog, and ensure that our active duty military service members and their families have the facilities they deserve. The bill includes $71.5 billion in discretionary funding which supports vital Department of Defense infrastructure projects and allows the Department of Veterans Affairs to serve the approximately 49 million veterans, family members, and survivors of deceased veterans more effectively. H.R. 4486 passed the House today by a vote of 416-1.
"This is an important piece of legislation for Alaska, particularly for our five major military installations, our roughly 20,000 active duty servicemen and women and their families, and our more than 70,000 veterans," said Congressman Don Young. "Nationally, our veterans wait an average of 125 days for the benefits and healthcare they've earned by defending this nation. We owe it to these Americans to once and for all streamline the bureaucracy associated with receiving the services they were promised. Our veterans deserve 21st Century attention and there is no reason why they should have to wait multiple months to access their benefits. We as a nation should never fail to uphold the commitments made to our heroes."
"I am also proud of the continued investment in Alaska, especially recent improvements to our missile defense projects. We know the important role Alaska plays in the Pacific region, especially as pockets of instability continue to threaten our national interests. Ensuring our national missile defense systems are fully operational is imperative to maintaining the highest level of American deterrence in the Pacific and across the world."
Alaska Specific Military Construction Projects:
Clear Air Force Station: Provides $11.5 million to fund fuel storage for an emergency power plant at Clear Air Force Station. This funding will ensure that the missile defense infrastructure at Clear Air Force Station remains operational during any significant power outages in the Interior.
VA/Native Health Agreements: Continues to allow veterans who reside in rural Alaska to obtain medical services (including behavioral and dental) from medical facilities supported by the Indian Health Service or tribal organizations, and provides for reimbursement for those services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Military Construction Items:
Military Construction Projects: Funded at $6.6 billion, a reduction of $3.3 billion from Fiscal Year 2014, for the construction of military family housing, military medical facilities, DOD education facilities, and Guard and Reserve facilities.
Advance Appropriations for VA Medical Programs: Contains $58.7 billion in advance appropriations for VA medical programs, which includes $45 billion to support veteran medical treatment, including funding for traumatic brain injury, suicide prevention, mental health, homeless veteran treatment, services, housing, and job training, and rural health initiatives.
Driving the VA into the 21st Century: Includes $344 million for the modernization of VA electronic health records and $173 million for a paperless processing system to help the disability backlog. This funding will help ensure our veterans get proper care through the timely and accurate exchange of medical data between VA, DOD, and the private sector, the bill includes language restricting funding until the VA demonstrates progress on the system's functionality and interoperability.
Disability Claims Processing Backlog: Provides $173 million for the paperless claims processing system for digital scanning of health records, centralized mail, and overtime to end the backlog in disability compensation claims by 2015. In addition, rigorous reporting requirements to track the performance of each regional office on claims processing are continued.