U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today announced that the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (Milcon/VA) Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014. Senator Kirk voted in favor of the bipartisan bill, which provides $74.3 billion in discretionary funds and is $325 million below the President's request. The Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, of which Senator Kirk is the Ranking Member, approved the bill earlier this week.
The bill includes $63.4 billion for the VA, and more than $2.5 billion of those funds will help reduce the claims backlog in Illinois and across the nation. The Chicago Regional Office has the 4th worst processing time in the nation, with claims waiting for an average of 465 days. Claims processed at VA Regional Offices average 292 days across the United States.
"This bill will help us solve the VA backlog problem so we can provide our wounded veterans with the services and treatment they deserve," Senator Kirk said. "The men and women who have fought for our country should not have to wait more than a year for their disability claims to be processed, and this bill will reduce their wait times."
The bill also appropriates $77.851 million in funding for Illinois Military Construction projects, including $35.851 million for Unaccompanied Housing at Naval Station Great Lakes and $42 million for two Air National Guard projects in Kankakee.
On April 29, 2013, Senator Kirk joined a bipartisan group of 68 U.S. Senators in urging President Obama to take direct action in ending the VA disability claims backlog. At a May 22 meeting with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Senator Kirk discussed the claims backlog and urged them to work toward a solution.