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President Trump Bumps VA Spending

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Last week, President Trump proposed a new budget plan that would significantly increase the VA’s budget and make it the second-largest federal agency when measured by discretionary spending. The proposed budget is $243 billion for the entire agency, which includes the Veterans Health Administration.  As one might expect, since the start of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the VA’s budget has steadily increased.  A $243 billon budget is almost double what it was 10 years ago.

The budget most significantly impacts the mental health services, in which spending would be increased by 32 percent or $76 million. $313 million of this budget would be specifically designated to suicide prevention programs.

From a dollar standpoint, discretionary funding and resources are the most heavily impacted by the proposal. This includes spending for health care, benefits, and national cemeteries. Under the proposed budget, there would be an increase of $13.5 billion, 14% above its 2020 budget.

However, these are not the only two categories affected.  Benefit programs including compensation and pensions, readjustment, housing and insurance are also significantly impacted.  Women’s health care, VA medical services, the electronic health record modernization, and processing of Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans’ claims will also see increases in their budgets.

If enacted by Congress, the VA’s budget would be second to only that of the Defense Department; and knock the Department of Health and Human Services to No. 3 on the list.

Though many facets of VA spending would see substantial increases in spending under the plan, some areas in veterans’ spending would see cuts. These areas include cost-of-living expenses by rounding down veterans’ monthly benefit payments to the nearest whole dollar amount, capping student veterans post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for flight training and standardizing and enhancing VA compensation and pension benefits.

These recommendations are not new and have been brought up by the administration before. In the past, many have criticized these suggestions on the basis that they would take funds away from veterans that have earned benefits. Similar efforts on these fronts have previously been defeated in Congress.

According to the VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, “The budget request will ensure veterans and their families experience health improvements and technological modernization advancements.” Phil Roe, House Veterans Affairs Committee ranking member also commented, “With this budget request, VA will be more prepared than ever before to ensure that those efforts bear fruit for generations of veterans to come.” 

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