The House Appropriations Committee today released the initial fiscal year 2013 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill. The legislation will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The bill totals $71.7 billion in discretionary funding, which is the same as the fiscal year 2012 level.
The legislation provides the nation's military with the infrastructure needed to house, train, and equip military personnel, provides for the quality of life of our troops and their families, and maintains our strong military base structure. The bill also funds veterans' benefits and programs to ensure that all veterans receive the services they have earned as a result of their sacrifices and service to the country.
Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers made the following statement on the legislation:
"We are committed to ensuring the health and well-being of those who proudly serve and have served our nation, as well as providing care and support for their families both here and abroad. This bill addresses the needs of our nation's troops, veterans, and military families, and provides funding for the programs and services that they deserve. At the same time, we have found efficiencies within the programs in the bill to trim spending, and have directed taxpayer dollars to most effectively provide for our troops and veterans," he said.
Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson also commented on his bill:
"The safety and security of our nation is always my top priority. It is the responsibility of Congress to ensure that our military has every resource available to them to be successful on, and off, the battlefield. Once again this year, we have been able to cut excess spending without compromising the high-quality services provided to our troops, their families, and our veterans," Chairman Culberson said.
Military Construction -- The bill provides $10.6 billion for military construction projects -- a decrease of $2.4 billion below last year's level. Much of the reduction is attributable to the deliberate pause in military construction by the Air Force (-$839 million) and a continued decline in funding requirements for the BRAC 2005 process. The bill also rescinds certain prior-year funds that have not been used.
Military Family Housing --The bill provides $1.65 billion for military family housing, which fully funds the budget request for family housing construction and operation and maintenance for fiscal year 2013. The funding provided will ensure quality housing is continued for 1,231,044 military families, and also supports privatization efforts of the remaining 7% of Department of Defense family housing inventory.
Military Medical Facilities -- The legislation contains $927 million for construction and alterations for new or existing military medical facilities that support and care for 9.6 million beneficiaries, including the second phase of funding for the replacement hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, which is the main hospital for the care of our wounded troops abroad.
Department of Defense (DoD) Education Facilities --The bill includes $547 million for essential safety improvements and infrastructure work at DoD Education Activities facilities located in both the U.S. and overseas.
Veterans Affairs (VA) -- The legislation includes a total of $135.4 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. This funding will help provide our nation's veterans with the services and care they have earned from their dedicated service to the country.
Discretionary funding in the bill equals $60.7 billion, which is $2.3 billion above last year's level. Approximately $52 billion of this discretionary total was provided last year via an advance of funding in the fiscal year 2012 Appropriations bill.
VA Medical Services --The bill funds VA medical services at $41.4 billion -- providing for approximately 6.3 million patients to be treated in fiscal year 2013. Some of these funds include: $6.2 billion in mental health care services; $73 million in suicide prevention activities; $220 million for traumatic brain injury treatment; $5.8 billion in homeless veterans treatment, services, housing, and job training; and $250 million in rural health initiatives.
Minor Construction -- Minor construction at the VA is funded at $608 million, which is $125 million above fiscal year 2012 and the same as the budget request. These funds will allow VA to make progress on the hundreds of projects already scheduled to build or renovate health clinics, medical residences, and nursing homes, as well as acquire cemetery land and facilities.
VA Mandatory Funding -- The bill fulfills mandatory funding requirements such as: veteran disability compensation programs for almost four million veterans and their survivors; post-9-11 GI bill education benefits for more than 600,000 veterans; and vocational rehabilitation and employment training for more than 200,000 veterans.
Oversight --The legislation includes provisions to increase oversight of taxpayer dollars at the VA, including requiring the agency to report on construction expenditures and savings, forbidding new changes in the scope of construction projects, and restricting the agency from taking certain spending actions without notifying Congress.
Advance Appropriations for Veterans Medical Programs -- The bill contains $54.5 billion in advance fiscal year 2014 funding for the VA -- the same level provided in the House-passed Budget Resolution. This funding will provide for medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities, and ensure that our veterans have continued, full access to their medical care needs.
Arlington National Cemetery -- The legislation includes $174 million for the Arlington National Cemetery, an increase of $128 million over last year's level. Within the total, $84 million is provided for the Millennium Project, and $19 million is included for planning and design of the Navy Annex Expansion.