2022 Budget Proposal Outlines Massive Funding Increase for the VA
Nearly $270 billion has been requested for the VA by the White House in the new budget for fiscal year 2022. This allocation would increase the current budget by approximately 10%. The additional budget would likely go towards the department’s priorities, such as suicide prevention, caregiver programs, and GI Bill modernization. Discretionary spending would increase by 8.2%, receiving $113.1 billion. This figure does not include medical care collections.
The proposed budget for the VA is the third largest among the Cabinet’s departments, landing behind the Department of Defense and Health and Human Services. Yet, the percentage increase is smaller than all but two departments, Justice and Homeland Security.
The proposed budget increase follows an infusion of $36 billion over the past year for COVID-19 relief and recovery. Furthermore, the $18 billion in the American Jobs Plan for VA health care infrastructure as well as $260 million for the American Families Plan for veterans who are parents is also not included in this budgetary increase.
Jon Rychalski, the VA’s Chief Financial Officer, discussed the budget with reporters last week. He stated that the department is looking at a potential increase in demand for their services, and that the administration’s proposal is setting the department up well to deal with that increase. “They’ve supported our request for the resource necessary,” he said on the call.
Funding for mental health care and programs for homeless veterans will be directly impacted by the increased budged. Suicide prevention programs will nearly double their current budgets with a requested budget of $598 million. Some of this funding is marked for a new grant program specifically aimed at preventing suicides. $142 million of that budget will be allocated towards the Veterans Crisis Line, which officials expect will see increased use in the coming years.
Due to increased demand for mental health services, the proposal outlines that those programs receive a $1.5 billion increase in their budgets. 29% of all VA patients currently seek treatment for mental health, according to VA officials.
Under the proposed budget, the VA caregiver program would extend to include wounded veterans who served between the end of the Vietnam War and September 11, 2001. This group is expected to increase by approximately 52,000 participants in fiscal year 2022.
Other programs that will see increases include: veteran homelessness programs, the Digital GI Bill Modernization Effort, and the Office of Resolution Management, Diversity and Inclusion.
“This bold budget request by President Biden to Congress will ensure VA is moving swiftly and smartly into the future, with much-needed monetary investments in our most successful and vital programs,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement released recently.